It is with a feeling of dismay and cynical disappointment that I read of the well-documented activities of the Fourth International Supporters’ Caucus inside the Socialist Labour Party.

As I understand it, they have consolidated themselves around Scargill’s leadership, and are doing their utmost to back and give support to his intentions to construct the SLP along anti-democratic, semi-Stalinist (in the pejorative sense) lines as regards the banning of factions, tendencies, and anything that might bring into question the ‘leader centralism’ that is implicit in the initial thrust of the SLP towards the adopting of a constitution.

As has been pointed out in the Weekly Worker, this is, at best, a hypocritical act on the part of a group of coordinated Trotskyist militants who are already acting as a de facto tendency within the SLP, while using their positions to ban others from doing the same.

But, to take this a step further, it is a crass and completely unprincipled departure from the one thing that most Trotskyists have always held high in their struggles against ‘Stalinism’: the overriding necessity of democracy in the organisations of the working class. To claim to be supporters of the United Secretariat, and to work to ban the contributions and participation of other organisations, such as Militant Labour and the CPGB (PCC), from participating as distinct tendencies within a broad, radical left workers’ party is a form of anti-Trotskyist hypocrisy that stinks to the heavens.

Democracy in the workers’ movement, and the struggle to advance it, and to advance the necessary debate over programme and perspective, is key to the struggles of the working class to supplant capitalism with a more humane social system. This is particularly true in this period. Should Fisc supporters continue to ignore the best that their tradition has to offer, and to opportunistically tail the Scargill leadership of the SLP as it paves the way for future witch-hunting of the left, they not only betray their own traditions, and their own principles, but the class they claim to represent to boot.

Chris Faatz

National question

It was heartening to see the various articles raising the debate about Ireland in such a positive way in the Weekly Worker (April 11). Eamonn McCann was especially interesting to me as an ex-Socialist Workers Party member who had heard Eamonn speak in Liverpool as the peace process began. I was also heartened by the debate in the National Union of Mineworkers.

SWP statements have given three positions on Ireland. The first, associated with Eamonn, was continued in his interview in the Weekly Worker. This emphasises the sectarian nature of the northern Irish state and concludes that a workers’ movement can only develop through a revolutionary attitude to the state in general and the northern Irish state in particular.

Eamonn’s membership of the SWP has been unclear on a number of occasions over the years and his views have been little heard.

The second line, echoes of which are heard in Eamonn’s interview, relied on the southern Irish working class. This position argued that it was the organisation and development of the southern working class that could break loyalist workers from allegiance to the UK state. Promoted by Chris Bambury in particular, this attitude helped justify a reduced emphasis on the Troops Out Movement and the argument for the withdrawal of British troops. It is noticeable that this line has been abandoned in recent weeks as a new book by Chris Bambury argues for troops out.

The third argument was current at the start of the peace process. It maintained that it was in workers’ interests to oppose sectarianism in both camps. It called for a united fight “against the Tories”. It was summed up on the December 11 1995 in Socialist Worker: “The only hope for a lasting peace lies in a working class revolt against the Tories and bosses on all sides”. This is a truly syndicalist line arguing simply for economic and trade union unity.

The three lines, used interchangeably by the SWP, masked a change of explicit policy. The Socialist Workers’ Movement, the SWP’s sister party organising in all Ireland, abandoned its policy of ‘unconditional but critical support’ for the IRA. This change in policy was openly debated a year before the peace process and was linked to the recruitment of members in east Belfast. The argument was that such a policy led to the practical call for a vote for Sinn Fein in elections, a policy that was inhibiting recruitment and political propaganda. The debate was not reported in the UK and most SWP members were unaware of it. The line of the UK organisation was changed, though unlike the Irish organisation, without debate.

This brings me back to my main point. The line outlined by Eamonn is an Irish line. It gives a line of march for Irish revolutionaries but does not argue for a position in the UK state. Ireland is a UK problem. It was the UK state that split Ireland, gerrymandered a constitution for the north and maintains it still with troops and cash. It is part of a systematic abdication of responsibility by the UK left that Ireland has been left to go it alone. The SWP line of unconditional but critical support was formally correct but was not matched by actions. There were no joint meetings or demonstrations with Sinn Fein or the IRA. There was no systematic solidarity work or organisation for the withdrawal of British troops.

The work of revolutionaries in the UK state is to develop the republican and democratic sentiments already present into a revolutionary programme and party. The national question in Ireland, Scotland and Wales cannot be isolated from that task. The positions of the SWP and those of Militant Labour put socialism first. The task is to build socialism and only then and in that process can national questions be resolved. This is stageism in reverse.

The stages argument stated that socialism could only come after resolving national and democratic questions. A revolutionary position is that socialism comes through the process of mobilising the working class to fight on the national and democratic questions of the day. We are for the unity of Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English workers fighting jointly for republican aims. Irish republicanism has been left to fight alone for too long.

Chris Jones

Left or right?

The issue of what it means to be on the left or the right has been the subject of somecontroversy of late. Perhaps the following item may serve to illustrate this problem, if not resolve it. It is the full and original text of a bulletin filed in English by the KCNA news agency, the official agency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as North Korea.

“Pyongyang, April 13: The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in a statement of its Department of Information on April 9 lodged a decisive protest against Washington’s new anti-DPRK campaign.

“In the 1950s the US invaded North Korea and engaged itself in murder and destruction, unhesitatingly using the most barbarous mass-destruction weapons of various kinds, including germ weapons.

“The US still remains in the half land of Korea, which it has been occupying for more than half a century. The US occupiers commit provocations against the DPRK and force South Korea to be in a full combat posture. Mass media of the US are engaged in a frantic campaign against the DPRK. The statement strongly urged the US to take hands off Korea.”

Supporting the DPRK against the USA might be perceived as a leftwing issue, but the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia is not leftwing or even liberal, despite its name. It is ultra-nationalist, and its leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, counts France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen as a political ally.

Left or right?

Steve Kay

Capitalist China?

In his letter of April 4, replying to criticism of his article, John Craig appears to defend the proposition that modern China is a capitalist state, and therefore there is nothing to choose between it and Taiwan, a line which, he writes, is in keeping with CPGB thinking. The tone of his letter is subjective throughout. It includes a list of China’s ‘crimes’, cultural rather than economic, which shows bias.

In the case of Pol Pot which has affinity with the ‘cultural revolution’, the ideology is impossible for western thought to comprehend. Only a country which had suffered foreign invasion, years of colonisation and cultural abuse could appreciate the urge to rise up and tear out all forms of alien - ie, western - culture. China had the sense to stop short of the disastrous consequences of the Pol Pot excesses.

It is accepted generally that there are three types of economy functioning in China. The ports and cities of the coast, as John Craig mentions, are most under foreign capitalist influence and have been for at least 200 years. They are not typical of the country as a whole.

This was a land of peasant farmers, particularly in the great river systems, with rice-growing to produce the staple diet. Organised in cooperatives, owned and worked by the farmers, more recently these have been broken up and the land returned to farming families, partly due to the heavy increase in population in the villages, and partly to the plentiful supply of food. Many young people are leaving to seek work in towns, resulting in some unemployment.

Of the third sector, the state-owned and administered industries, John Craig quotes from the Xinhua news agency (also much used by the New Communist Party) that mergers and bankruptcies are under way, with l.4 million workers “retiring from active duties”. His comment is: “Does that sound like redundancies? To me it sounds like capitalism.”

Well, the figure now given for the population of China is around one billion, and growing. The figure for unemployment therefore equals 0.14% of the population, which seems to compare favourably with the European 8% unemployed. Its industries are being modernised, certainly, and China is said to be the most successful in increasing world trade.

Li Peng told the press in France that though there are many and varied political theories, 70% of the people continue to support the communist government.

I think it would pay to take a more intelligent and constructive attitude towards the Peoples’ Republic of China. Has the case for capitalism been proved?

Mary Carter

Death threats

On March 12 this year members of the exile organisation of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCL) were attacked and brutally assaulted in Paris by a goon squad from the LTTE (Tamil Tigers). The RCL is the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International and its exile organisations in Germany and France have fought for many years to defend the rights of the Tamil peoples.

This is not the first time that the LTTE have attacked members of the RCL. However, this time the assault was followed by repeated death threats.

These are no idle threats. For some time the LTTE has been infamous for the fact that it no longer bothers with political argument but settles its differences with other organisations by assassination.

It is very urgent that such gangster methods employed against political opponents are stopped.

Dave Hyland
International Communist Party