Abolish the block vote

We publish below a discussion document emanating from Lewisham and Greenwich SLP, written in response to a previous paper, ‘Facing up to realities’ (see Weekly Worker January 8). The author, Richard Tisdell, made it clear that its contents were intended for internal use only. However, having been sent a copy, the Weekly Worker felt it should be made public. Comrade Tisdell is very close to the Fourth International Supporters Caucus, an organisation thrown into crisis by Arthur Scargill’s use of the block vote to abolish the black section at December’s congress. This is clearly reflected in comrade Tisdell’s discussion document. Should SLP members continue to “uphold” the constitution and abide by the “authority of the NEC” - while refusing to “provide candidates and fund elections”? That the comrade believes he and Fisc can do both has an air of unreality about it. But the very fact that previously ultra-loyal supporters of the witch hunt are contemplating rebellion shows how fluid the SLP has become in the aftermath of its 2nd Congress

I was shocked and dismayed by the decision of the leadership to deploy a 3,000 block vote representing a retired miners’ welfare group, a decision which effectively disenfranchised the entire membership of the SLP.

This action not only demonstrated a contempt for the rank and file membership but was also unnecessary and out of proportion. What was achieved by this inept and clumsy manoeuvre was the abolition of the black section and modification of the membership of the National Executive Committee by at most two members.

The result has been that the party has become the object of ridicule, isolating itself from potential recruits. Arthur Scargill has lost a lot of the considerable respect he formerly enjoyed, that respect being his most effective tool in holding the party together.

I joined the SLP because I believed it had the potential to unite socialists from different backgrounds and fill the political vacuum arising from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ever rightward drift of the Labour Party. Such a party, armed with distinct and coherent policies, acting in a united and disciplined fashion, would be able to intervene in struggles, influence significant sections of British society, and eventually form a socialist government.

I did not join the SLP to form a mark II Labour Party, Mark II Communist Party, realignment of the ultra-left or, worse still, participate in an unprincipled hotchpotch of diverse grouplets and individuals posing as a Socialist Alliance. I am opposed to any proposal that we in Lewisham and Greenwich enter into agreements with the Socialist Alliance. The SLP project aims to build a mass party, whereas the SA is a Trojan horse for ultra-left realignment. The two projects are totally incompatible and dual membership is a violation of the constitution we have all undertaken to uphold.

We should also resist the temptation to become localist, declaring UDI and disregarding the authority of the NEC. There is every reason to expect that attempts to behave in the way that Southwark [Vauxhall - ed], Cardiff, and others have in the past will be met with decisive action now that the new disciplinary procedures are in place. Such action also seeks to evade rather than confront the difficulties we are now facing.

Clearly it is totally unacceptable that the democratic rights of party members are flouted as they were at congress, and that black party members have been singled out for derecognition of their section.

It is important that rank and file party members strive for the maximum possible unity in the struggle for internal democracy. I believe that this will be achieved by concentrating our campaign on the issues of opposition to the block vote and supporting reinstatement of the black section.

I therefore propose the following: