Call to SWP minority - ‘Fight openly’

Following the Socialist Workers Party’s decision to contest the Irish general election (see Weekly Worker June 12), a change in policy in Britain too now looks to be just a matter of time. For some time a minority of the SWP leadership, particularly Chris Harman, have been arguing for the organisation to stand its own candidates in elections, and occasionally veiled references to the internal opposition on the question have surfaced in the organisation’s journals. Tom Delargy was expelled from the SWP in 1987 for opposing the leadership and is now active in the Scottish Socialist Alliance. Below we reproduce extracts from the letter he sent to Socialist Worker just before the general election, in which he anticipates a change in line and calls on the organisation to drop its sectarian approach to the rest of the left

Thanks for printing my [previous] letter putting the case for voting for the SSA. I wrote it to give Socialist Worker an opportunity to identify itself with these candidates.

Many members were doubly sure that you would not endorse us because all SWP literature on the SSA thus far (most disgracefully Duncan Brown’s letter in Socialist Review last April - a letter whose message has yet to be contradicted by the editor or anyone else) has denounced us for being to the right of New Labour!

The founders of the Scottish Socialist Alliance came together just over a year ago specifically to provide an alternative to all those socialist activists (including those who sell Socialist Worker) who were not prepared to liquidate their existing organisations - something Arthur Scargill insisted upon as a condition for joining his SLP.

The initiators of this new organisation, the SSA, proposed “dual membership”. This allows real competition for the best ideas and proposals for action. It is a proposal to minimise the petty squabbling which goes down badly with workers who want an alternative to Tony Blair’s New Tory Party.

The vicious response to the SSA’s appeal for Socialist Worker to affiliate and to participate as individual members came as a shock to many - me more than most, since I have not forgotten that Chris Harman called on Militant to leave Labour and form a united organisation.

When Blair destroys Labour’s union link in law as well as in fact, the SWP will begin to stand candidates - possibly before this. I want to prepare for this by asking you to consider negotiating conditions for participation in the Alliance. If you were prepared to go for an unconditional electoral pact with Tony Blair’s New Labour up until a few weeks ago, I trust you will strive to negotiate an electoral pact with revolutionaries and other socialists for the purpose of re-enfranchising opponents of the capitalist system.

When Blair is in office and can no longer evade responsibility for the deteriorating welfare state and rising unemployment, the Nazis will prosper. Chris Harman, Hassan Mahamdallie, Sean Vernell, Hazel Croft all know this to be the case. Please stop giving coded messages and hoping the rank and file of the party can read between the lines. Start to fight openly for what you believe.