Impressionistic and confused sect

John Stone of the Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International renews his criticism of Socialist Labour Action

In the Weekly Worker (July 3) you published my article, ‘Socialist Labour Action: don’t finger oppositionists’, under the headline, ‘Socialist Labour’s Blairites’. This title is misleading because Socialist Labour Action defines itself as an “open faction in sympathy with Workers Power”, an organisation that is against Blair.

The problem of these comrades is not in opposing ‘Blairism’, but their extreme contradictions based on their sect’s ambitions. I will try to illustrate my point.

Workers Power calls only for a Labour vote - even against the left - and claims to be building a faction inside the Labour Party. However, WP is not working inside Labour at all. They were completely absent in the struggle of the Labour left (including Scargill) against the abolition of clause four, the attacks on the union links and the nomination of Blair as the new leader.

At the last conference of Labour’s Socialist Campaign Group, which was held immediately after the general election with the aim of coordinating the struggle of all the left against Blair’s attacks, the LCMRCI participated, along with the comrades from the Workers Internationalist League. Nevertheless, WP completely ignored that event and did not even send a paper-seller.

WP decided to promote a faction inside the Socialist Labour Party. This tactic could be valid if you consider that it is possible to influence it and if you adopt a more considered attitude towards its rank and file. That means making a united front with the SLP through offering critical electoral support. In relation to the SLP, Workers Power was literally all over the place. In different articles the LCMRCI and the Weekly Worker have showed how WP made many incredible U-turns. First, they welcomed Scargill’s party and called for a revolutionary SLP. A few weeks later they said that the SLP is a “Stalinist sect” which could not be influenced. In May 1996, they were impressed by the SLP’s founding congress and wrote that it was possible to win the SLP’s soul for the revolution. Its youth organisation, Revolution, applied to join and a significant number of former WP cadres appeared in the SLP.

In the months before the election WP supporters could be seen trying to defend simultaneously completely contradictory positions in relation to the SLP. A WP member could sell a paper (Workers Power) which characterised the SLP as a “Stalinist sect”, while at the same time promoting a journal (Trotskyist International) which characterised the SLP as a positive phenomenon that should be encouraged in its revolutionary development.

In South Wales SLA comrades travelled to Newport to support Scargill’s candidacy, while WP published the only leaflet on the left calling on Welsh workers not to vote for the leader of the miners’ strike, but for a banker and former Conservative minister, Alan Howarth - a bourgeois candidate running on a Blair ticket.

In Vauxhall WP was the only significant left force that boycotted the Ian Driver candidacy, although a leading SLA supporter was a member of the local SLP executive. In Leicester SLA went from one extreme to the other. In a by-election (late 1996) they actively promoted the candidacy of a member of the Stalinist and homophobic Economic and Philosophic Science Review and they opposed any electoral deal with Militant, who managed to obtain more votes. A few months later, during the general election, an SLA comrade openly said that he would vote against the same candidate and in favour of Labour.

Inside the SLP, the SLA comrades were always against real united fronts against the right and the witch hunt. They spoke at some meetings, but avoided any involvement on joint committees. They were commissioned by the SLP Left Network to produce a broad internal bulletin, but they arrived at the next meeting with the first issue of their own journal, Socialist Labour Action, which is only open to sympathisers of WP. They boycotted the founding conference of the SLP Revolutionary Platform.

In another meeting of the Left Network they opposed a revolutionary programme drafted by SLP revolutionary Trotskyists on the grounds that this was not an important issue. However, some weeks later they produced their own ‘manifesto’, which was a mixture of valid positions and nonsensical calls for a European constituent assembly. Now the SLA is portraying itself as a group of people that do not hide their positions, while in reality they are simply provoking their own expulsion.

However, when they joined the SLP they claimed to have broken with WP, despite never making a single criticism of WP’s line against their new party. Initially they claimed to be champions of party building, but now they say that Scargill and all the SLP leadership are Stalinist and counterrevolutionary, and should be expelled from the party. This is nonsense. It is true that there are Stalinist tendencies inside the SLP, but the battle its not finished.

Workers Power gave a special section to Kirstie Paton, who claimed to speak on behalf of “Vauxhall SLP”. They simply do not care what the opinion of the Vauxhall branch is. Several resolutions were passed in that branch criticising Kirstie’s behaviour. Some of them were wrong. However, in one recent meeting the branch decided to dissociate itself from her remarks in Workers Power. The branch did not attack her because of her sympathies with another group, but for her political position in solidarity with an organisation that campaigned against the Vauxhall dissident SLP candidate. Nobody supported Kirstie in Vauxhall, but, despite her incredible isolation, WP insisted on a course of provocation towards that branch.

WP is raising the flag of democracy. However, its own internal regime is no better that Scargill’s. SLA mouths democracy inside the SLP, but they supported the crushing by the WP leadership of all their comrades in the third world for opposing its line in the Bosnian war. The dissidents were expelled without right of appeal.

Now WP is helping the witch hunt. SLA publishes leaflets fingering SLP oppositionists as supporters of other groups inside the party. In a party which explicitly forbids its members to be supporters of other organisations, this means that they are effectively inviting Scargill to expel these comrades.

Socialist Labour Action are not Blairites. They are simply a confused sect. Workers Power is a group which is not led by principles, but by short-term, sectarian ambition. The same erratic and impressionistic attitude that they adopted towards the SLP they have displayed over every single important issue.

Workers Power gives no positive advice to the SLP left. It only wants to provoke a split.