Positive direction

Around the left

As we mentioned in the last issue of Weekly Worker, a relatively large number of left journals and documents were circulated at the Socialist Labour Party’s 2nd congress last December. Some of the journals had never seen the light of day before. One of them goes by the name of Workers Action.

As it patiently explains, “This is the first issue of the journal of the former Workers International League majority. In November the WIL was dissolved after it became clear that political differences threatened the group with paralysis. The differences over the course of approximately a year, and centre on interpretation of the united front and the transitional method, and regroupment orientation … Since the WIL was increasingly unable to function effectively, it was decided that the best course of action was to form two separate groups, with both retaining their affiliation to the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency. Although it has a different name and format, Workers Action is directly descended from the WIL and its paper, Workers News, and will fight on the same political line” (December-January 1998).

Regrettably, it is true that Workers Action has the “same political line” as that emanating from Workers News - ie, congenital and doctrinaire pro-Labourism, with an attendant and sometimes virulent anti-leftism which reminds one of its Gerry Healy antecedents. At one stage comrade Richard Price writes: “Of course every crank and sectarian headbanger on the left is an anti-Labourite.” Not true, comrade … but it does enable him to equate anti-Labourism with clinical madness. Like those who believed the world was flat or that god created the sun on the fourth day, comrade Price revels in his ignorant ‘common sense’, because it is what the ‘majority’ think.

Ludicrously comrade Price mocks the SLP’s electoral performance as “derisory”, taking particularly delight at its disappointing vote in the Paisley South by-election (153 votes - 0.6%). Would comrade Price be unhappy then if the SLP started to secure tensof thousands of votes in elections?

No, of course not. But comrade Price does not really think any left group should stand against New Labour - fundamentally he believes that bourgeois elections are about choosing the butcher, not fighting for an alternative. The comrade goes on to say: “Worse still, it compounded its sectarianism towards Labour-following workers by instructing SLP members in Scotland not even to talk to the Scottish Socialist Alliance” - an action he describes as “completely crass”.

Some of these criticisms from New WIL are not without foundation - obviously. But what is its solution to the current impasse? Simple, says comrade Price. To accept the “fact that broad sections of the working class have retained passive Labourist illusions” and then cut your coat according to your cloth. Therefore, the SLP left “should set itself less ambitious goals for the time being, but sharpen its political weapons. There is no long-term future for an organisation which blurs the distinction between reform and revolution.” Is it possible for the left, whether inside or outside the SLP, to be any less ambitious than it is now? The comrades in New WIL are surely preaching defeatism and passivity.

In the opinion of Workers Action, “A loose networking organisation is no alternative to the SLP … The most important contribution the SLP left could make now would be to declare for a new Marxist organisation” (my emphasis). The SLP left - and the non-SLP left for that matter - can “declare” all it likes, but that will not conjure up a “new Marxist organisation” - apart from just another sect.

Comrade Price ends on a friendly note. If the SLP left “moves in a positive direction it deserves comradely and non-sectarian cooperation from all revolutionary socialists”. For comrade Price, a “positive direction” essentially means pro-Labourism and voting for Blair.

For us the key is uniting communists into one democratic-centralist organisation - whether they work in the Labour Party or the SLP is entirely secondary. This “positive direction” points not to another dire sect, but a class party of advanced workers - a reforged Communist Party.

Don Preston