For a workers’ party

Scargill’s SLP has been launched without any debate over politics, strategy or organisation. The constitution was presented as a fait accompli. Nevertheless debate does not end here

THE LAUNCH of Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party was announced after a secret meeting in London last Saturday. The workers’ movement up and down the country since has been - for and against - buzzing with the news.

Although the national press has given the development relatively little coverage, the media in Scotland and particularly in Yorkshire has been flooded with talk of the SLP.

It has been confirmed that the Socialist Labour Party will stand in the Hemsworth by-election. This seems to be part of the reason for the sudden launch - which surely must be viewed as premature.

Steve Kemp, the local National Union of Mineworkers nominee, turned down by Walworth Road as Labour’s candidate for Hemsworth, would not stand for the SLP. Now it is announced that Brenda Nixon, a prominent Women Against Pit Closures activist (interviewed in last week’s Weekly Worker) will be the candidate. Scargill will be the election agent.

The party, although still to have its official launch on May 1, has been delivered as a fait accompli to the working class via an announcement on Saturday evening on Radio Four. It has been formed by a small clique led by Scargill in secret meetings. The vast mass of workers - and even the section amongst the Labour left and revolutionary left that has been inspired by the idea - have been excluded from these meetings.

There has been no public discussion, no public documents. Nothing has been written about what sort of party this will be, or needs to be. The key document produced was Scargill’s constitution, drawn up by lawyers. This was published in our paper, but never openly circulated. Is this what the SLP will stand on in Hemsworth? Will voters really be convinced to vote for a party they know nothing about by February 1?

Undoubtedly the mood is there for a fighting party of the working class. By shifting Labour further and further to the right, Blair has created his opposition - he has created Scargill. For such a prominent leftwinger to leave the Labour Party marks a truly historical moment, not seen since the formation of the Independent Labour Party in the 1930s. This historical moment is still there for revolutionaries to seize - it would be a dereliction of our duty to do otherwise.

The premature and bureaucratic nature of the SLP launch certainly does not bode well however. Though deep disillusionment with Labour does exist among key sections of our class, many are desperate to get the Tories out and willing to ‘give Labour a chance’. Building an alternative that can give workers confidence in their own strength will take time, patient argument and struggle. By standing in Hemsworth in the absence of any discussion in the workers’ movement, in the absence of building any serious confidence in a new party, Scargill risks creating disillusionment with his SLP project before it even begins.

Nevertheless the momentum on the left that Scargill’s call has created cannot be destroyed so easily. This seems to be what Scargill actually fears and can go some way to explain the decidedly odd and anti-democratic nature of the launch. Rather than seeing debate and the drawing together of left groupings around his idea as a positive breakthrough, Scargill has attempted to stop this process by excluding left groups from his SLP and declaring its constitution - like it or lump it - without any discussion.

But discussion is going on and will continue - we must ensure that it does. Socialist Forums must be spread quickly up and down the country to deepen and extend that debate and common action amongst the left. It is up to serious revolutionaries to seize the moment the NUM leader has opened up to forge the party the working class needs - with or without Scargill.