Real enemies of progressive socialism

The Weekly Worker has received a copy of a letter from Camden SLP chair Martyn Giscombe-Smith, which we publish below. We believe that the comrade is profoundly mistaken in announcing his resignation from the party, and urge him to reconsider. While he makes many valid criticisms and his frustration is understandable, he overlooks the key point: the SLP represents a left break from Labour of potentially great significance for the working class. All socialists should fight to shape the SLP into an organisation that is up to the job. It cannot be right to retire into the wilderness

Dear SLP member

I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign from the Socialist Labour Party.

This is a decision I make with a lot of sadness, as I have met several - although not as many as I would have liked - people with whom I have forged friendships and friendly acquaintances. However, the behaviour and beliefs of certain other members renders my remaining a member of the party untenable; I do not want to be associated with these sort of people.

It is a feeling about this party and certain people whom it has attracted that has grown almost since I joined. The final straw came at the meeting of support for the Liverpool dockers at the Turkish Halkevi Centre last week.

I cannot believe, with all of history’s evidence, any genuine socialist with a shred of intelligence can come out in any form of support for the man who more betrayed, and inflicted more damage upon, the cause of socialism than just about any other in history: namely, one Joseph Stalin. However, that night the docker invited to speak, a member of the Halkevi, and two other SLP members all spoke in support of Stalinism. Now if this were just the opinions of a few isolated loonies then I wouldn’t be overly troubled - every group can accommodate a couple of loose cannons. However, Stalinism seems to be a set of manners governing the running of this party from the top downwards.

I should clarify my definition of Stalinism - in truth this is a subjective term for a set of attitudes, not just politics, that was around a long time before Joe. I suppose it’s a form of totalitarianism, which specialises in minimising recourse, and suppressing criticism of the powers that be and discussions of internal matters.

This has borne itself out with the expelling/voiding - call it what you will - of John Bridge and several other members. This has been done without any sort of appeals procedure being installed, or indeed any apparent requirement of the powers that be to justify or provide evidence for their actions.

And then we have the edict from above that Socialist News shall not contain any ‘politics’ or internal discussion. Various quarters within the SLP inform us that members ‘aren’t really interested in politics’ (so why have we joined a political party then?), whilst others express the opinion that we should not ‘engage in sterile debate with groups who claim to be on the left’ or reproduce articles from ‘obscure publications’. If the SWP’s socialist credentials are to be doubted and if their Socialist Review is obscure among leftwing journals, then I’ve clearly no idea what I’m talking about.

I belong to another society, without political portfolio, which does not allow internal debate in its main journal, as this ‘bores ordinary [whatever they are] members’. Those of us with a little insight realise that this is an excuse for suppressing the views of those who dare to question the party line. One has to subscribe to a ‘scurrilous’ unofficial sheet in order to scratch the surface and get a different perspective from the ‘everything’s coming up roses’ lines from the committee. I am amazed and distraught to have come to the conclusion that, in order to find out what really goes on in the SLP, one has to peruse the Weekly Worker.

To sum up, I cannot remain a member of a society whereby one member describes Kim Jong Il’s impoverishing dictatorship of North Korea as a ‘socialist paradise’ and who sings the praises of the Zairian and Chinese leaderships upon the basis that they must be great socialist empires solely owing to their opposition to the west. As someone who was a student at the time of Tiananmen, I find the latter especially sick.

Another member writes to the North London executive accusing me of “hijacking” a meeting, simply because I spoke in favour of John Bridge being allowed recourse over his expulsion. And how come the national executive is so keen to rid the party of those who have been deemed to have once had involvement with the CPGB, but refuses to investigate those others who belong to the Fourth International Supporters Caucus and/or the Stalin Society, and instead laughably denies the existence of, or proof of the existence of, these two groups?

Then there are those who regard Stalin as the saviour of the west, and particularly the Jewish population of Europe, from the hands of Hitler. So how come Joe and Adolf were able to send their two foreign ministers away together to formulate and sign what is now known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, the edict which doomed Poland to invasion and the world to the inevitability of the Second World War?

The answer to this is in fact that leftwing and rightwing dictatorships are not, despite what is often thought, as politically far apart as you can get. They are in truth two sides of the same coin; at those extremes the political spectrum bends back upon itself and meets at a point whereby all dictatorships, nominally leftwing or rightwing, all take on the same complexion. This is the reason why so-called communist dictatorships can believe that the likes of Amnesty International are stooges for proclaimed rightwing dictatorships, and vice versa. Both, in opposition to human rights and governmental accountability, are able to regard those in favour of the same as the enemy, as they are in reality so close in make-up.

In a sentence, it all boils down to those who are in favour of proper democratic parties and institutions being in permanent opposition to those who aren’t. At the moment the latter reign in the SLP. Until they and their like - the real enemies of progressive socialism - are expunged from the SLP then I will remain outside of it. Sadly, looking at the structures of all the other leftwing groups, it seems they all too suffer from similar malaises and insufficiently democratic and accountable structures.

I hope that I can rejoin the party one day. In the meantime I’d like to wish all of the genuine socialists in the party best wishes for the new year.

Yours sincerely

Martyn Giscombe-Smith
January 1 1997

The battle for democracy in the Socialist Labour Party is important for the entire workers movement. Central to this is the fight for the right to affiliate. The Communist Party is still waiting for a reply to its application, submitted in November of last year

National Executive Committee
Socialist Labour Party

Dear comrades,

The Socialist Labour Party has been established with the intention of becoming a federal party of the working class. Besides individual membership comrade Scargill’s latest version of the Constitution/rule book (May 1996) makes provision for affiliation. We note the small steps toward gaining trade union affiliations announced at the SLP’s founding conference.

To strengthen the fight for socialism and to truly break from the rotten tradition of Labourism it is necessary in our considered view that the SLP, because of its federal project, should facilitate the coming together of all trends and groups in the workers’ movement. Affiliation to the SLP must be open to every organisation committed to securing working class control over the means of production and exchange.

The Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB has never hidden its belief that socialism must and can only be the self-liberation of the working class. It is to further that struggle that the CPGB formally applies to affiliate to the SLP.

Naturally, the CPGB and the organisations which accept its leadership will continue to constitute a definite tendency within the SLP. We will continue to publish the Weekly Worker and operate according to the principles of democratic centralism. In such a way the theoretical clarity and unity in action of the SLP can be greatly enhanced. Only the capitalist state and the ruling class class can benefit from the silence and disorganisation of communists.

Obviously, to facilitate affiliation to the SLP it will be necessary to discuss and change clause 2, subsections 3 and 4 in comrade Scargill’s Constitution/rule book. To that end, we propose to the SLP a meeting between representatives of the CPGB’s PCC and the SLP’s NEC at the earliest possible opportunity.

We wait your reply,

Mark Fischer
On behalf of the Provisional Central Committee Communist Party of Great Britain
November 11 1996

Dear comrade Sikorski

We wrote to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labour Party on November 11 1996, requesting “a meeting between representatives” of the leaderships of our Party and your organisation to discuss the affiliation of the Communist Party to the SLP.

To date, we have received neither a reply nor an acknowledgement. We are aware of the many demands on the time of SLP officials, but we would appreciate confirmation of the receipt of this letter and an indication of when this matter will be discussed by the NEC. This is obviously a question that will be discussed by your entire organisation in the lead-up to the May congress. We believe that the sooner the SLP leadership makes its position clearer on this important question, the better for the whole movement.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours with communist greetings,

Mark Fischer, national organiser, CPGB Provisional Central Committee
Communist Party of Great Britain
January 6 1997