Scargill and the Morning Star

Simon Harvey of the SLP

As the stakes are rising ever higher over at the Morning Star, it appears that our own gen­eral secretary is becoming ever more embroiled in the opportunist intrigue over just who controls the paper. Arthur Scargill has held meetings with both sides now involved in the Star’s dispute. De­spite previous rumours that he was ‘doing a deal’ with new CPB gen­eral secretary Rob Griffiths and sacked editor John Haylett, recent reports seem to suggest that it is in fact Peoples Press Printing So­ciety chief executive Mary Rosser whom Scargill has been negotiat­ing with.

The Observer (March 1 1998) re­ported that Scargill was suppos­edly willing and able to cough up £200,000 to wipe out the PPPS’s debts, in exchange for “changes to the paper’s cooperative manage­ment structure” which would give him effective control over the Star. The Observer claims that this amount of money would be “no problem”.

With a major opponent in crisis, Scargill must sniff his opportunity to move in and pick up the pieces. And it must be tempting. The SLP’s own paper, Socialist News,is hardly a runaway success. Scargill’s own coffers, SLP donors and various NUM branches must be heavily subsidising this infre­quent publication. The Morning Star, so-called ‘paper of the labour movement’, has a small, but nev­ertheless real, base of trade union supporters who might be con­vinced to come aboard the SLP project. Fearful that his SLP project is disintegrating and fast running out of steam, Scargill seems to be viewing a smash and grab raid on the ailing Morning Star as a quick fix for his mounting problems. All this is a far cry from what he was saying last December.

At our 2nd Congress, Alec McFadden from Wallasey moved a motion which urged the SLP to “play an active role in the work of the Morning Star and to seek to influence its policies, articles and management committee in any and every way possible”. In short, to take over the Star for the SLP. For the only time during congress, Scargill spoke from the floor, rather than the platform, in opposition to the motion. He said that the intent of the motion was “opportunist ... entryism in reverse”. He went fur­ther. Scargill attacked the Star be­cause it had supported Blair in the general election and was hostile to the SLP’s formation and subse­quent contesting of elections. Scargill chastised supporters of McFadden’s proposal, saying: “If comrades are silly enough to sup­port the motion, they can’t expect to criticise SLP members who write for other left or supposed ‘left’ pa­pers.”

It is worth noting that the Star’s coverage of the SLP congress was relatively objective, no doubt re­flecting the decision of the October meeting of the CPB’s executive to open discussions with the SLP.

It seems odd that Scargill is so interested in gaining control of the Star after publicly distancing him­self from any such moves at the congress less than three months ago. At congress, Scargill boasted that the readership and circulation of the Star was lower than that of the SLP’s own sleepy bi-monthly. So why bother with a takeover?

As the brouhaha at the Star con­tinues, Scargill seems inexorably sucked into the vortex of the im­ploding British road to socialism. Scargill’s own ‘programme’, as Fisc’s Brian Heron attempted to explain in Capital and Class (spring 1996), is the BRS with the neo-liberalised Labour Party ex­cised. The SLP, as a more leftwing version of Old Labour, is meant to play both the extra-parliamentary and parliamentary roles, originally envisaged as a division between the CPGB and the Labour Party.

The dispute at the Star is essen­tially a crisis of that very pro­gramme. Despite Scargill’s efforts to breathe new life into the BRS,he cannot escape its reformist logic which is dragging the Star towards nemesis.

Marxist Bulletin

Curiously enough, it is the appear­ance of former members of the In­ternational Bolshevik Tendency within the SLP that has indirectly provoked a split in the IBT itself. At the group’s second interna­tional conference in Toronto, on January 7 1998, comrades Cullen, Davico and Haywood resigned over the majority’s position on Maastricht and the European Un­ion. The majority position at the conference was for neutrality to Maastricht, while the splitting mi­nority favoured opposition to the EU and ‘withdrawal’ from Europe. The majority of former IBT com­rades around the Marxist Bulletin share the position of the IBT ma­jority.

The ‘anti-EU’ minority, no doubt vicariously imagining the SLP to be something more than it is, have effectively sided with Scargill against the Marxist Bulletin. From reading their documents, I would say they seem to be on a liquidationist trajectory. But their departure reveals a recurrent prob­lem not confined to the IBT. Re­cent debate in the Weekly Worker between the CPGB and Workers Power has highlighted the sectar­ian methodology of groups which insist on programmatic agreement,as opposed to acceptance of the programme, as the basis for the unity of revolutionaries and com­munists.

Unless the IBT majority are able to learn this lesson, such silly splits will no doubt occur again and again.