There was an amusing incident at the Socialist Alliances conference in Walsall on November 28 (see p6). A CPGB comrade attempted to engage a member of the Socialist Democracy Group, the recent dispirited split from the Socialist Party. She asked him - genuinely - why the group did not appear to be making special efforts to sell to members of SP present at the event. She was told that SP members were not the SDG’s “target audience”.
Of course, it would very easy to laugh off such a silly comment. The SP is an important organisation of class fighters with a record of leading mass struggle and of building that most precious commodity, organic working class politicians. If the SDG as an organisation actually concurs with this facile suggestion of one of its members, then it is not in real politics.
I suggest a more likely explanation for the SDG’s reticence. Having left the SP without a struggle, with not even the ‘honour’ of having been summarily excluded by some anti-democratic bureaucracy, SDGers simply do not have the morality to approach their former comrades. The majority of SPers would brand them unserious quitters and probably tell them to sod off. And - let’s face it - they would have a point.
Many of the traditions of the workers’ movement in this country are particularly philistine. It is incumbent on communists to consciously start some new, healthier traditions of our own in much the same way that the bourgeoisie consciously intervenes for its own class interests.
In the wider movement workers build up parties, trade unions, cooperatives and other forms over generations. Workers show a marked reluctance to light-mindedly skip from organisation to organisation in the manner of some petty bourgeois dilettante. The negative aspect of this stubbornness is seen in the loyalty the proletariat may retain for organisations and leaders that have sold them out time after time. But when we have reforged a genuine mass party of the class once again, we will see the positive side of this proletarian obstinacy.
Which brings us back to the SDG. By our reckoning, this small organisation is a product of low level splits from four organisations in total. This does not even merit a mention in its first journal, let alone a balance sheet of the ‘struggle’ that has preceded its formation. Paradoxically, I believe the comrades’ first task is to recognise the error they had been guilty of in creating yet another organisation so frivolously.
One of the comrades’ stated differences with the Socialist Party was over the question of democratic centralism. Yet there appears to be no evidence that the founders of the SDG were in the process of being bounced out of the SP by that organisation’s leadership before their limp resignations. The comrades should address this glaring contradiction.
Thus - despite their protestations about ‘democratic centralism’ and the possibility of different political and theoretical views co-existing within such a framework - the comrades have simply set up yet another ideologically based sect. It is a splinter group, formed on a particular political shibboleth that justifies its own separate existence as an organisation against the movement as a whole.
The Weekly Worker is read widely and sympathetically in the Socialist Labour Party, the SP and, increasingly, the Socialist Workers Party. We urge these such readers not to emulate the example of the SDG. They should take themselves, their comrades and the struggle for genuine democratic centralism seriously.
Despite the serious mistake the comrades of the SDG have made in forming this new organisation, they too can still make an important contribution to this fight. We call on them and others to engage with the process of communist rapprochement. In last week’s Weekly Worker I reported on the state of negotiations between representatives of the Revolutionary Democratic Group - a state capitalist organisation from an SWP background - and the Provisional Central Committee of the Communist Party: “What is on the table now constitutes a provisional timetable for the merger of the two organisations. This will be an important step forward for the project of principled revolutionary unity and offers a way out of the current political and organisational impasse that cripples the left in Britain” (Weekly Worker November 27).
The door remains open to others, of course. The comrades from the SDG thus have an important opportunity to strike a real blow for the democratic centralism they profess to believe in.