London Socialist Labour rebels
Scargill’s former allies of the Fourth International Supporters Caucus attempt bureaucratic blackmail
The London regional committee of the Socialist Labour Party has refused to accept the democratic election of Roy Bull as the party’s vice-president. Scargill’s deposed former courtiers of the Fourth International Supporters Caucus have embarked upon a typically bureaucratic campaign demanding that the general secretary increases his tendency towards personal dictatorship, ignoring the results of the Manchester congress and removes Bull from office by diktat (either that or they will go on strike).
As many foresaw, Arthur Scargill’s sponsorship of Bull’s successful candidacy at the November 14 special congress has precipitated what could turn out to be the SLP’s final crisis.
It was not too difficult to predict that the election of an out-and-out Stalinite homophobe would lead to an immediate flurry of resignations. It was not as if our general secretary had been unaware of the contents of Bull’s cut-and-paste weekly, the Economic and Philosophic Science Review. Numerous comrades, including Scargill loyalists, have privately provided him with many examples of the kind of disgusting remarks that grace the pages of the EPSR. The Weekly Worker, a newspaper with which comrade Scargill is not unfamiliar, republished several unsavoury examples back in 1997 (see for example January 9, May 15 or July 10 of that year). Bull’s views that homosexuality is a “perversion”, an “emotional and sexual malfunction”, have been well chronicled.
Scargill made it clear in his closing remarks to last week’s congress that he knew full well what kind of man had just been elected. He said cryptically: “We oppose the homophobic comments that have appeared in some journals.” Perhaps he was responding to the rumblings in the hall about the comments on Ron Davies in the November 3 1998 edition of the EPSR. For example, Bull writes: “Tebbitt’s comments implying the emergence of secret homosexual mafias in many key institutions, helping each other gain promotion, is almost certainly true.”
But for Scargill the election of a homophobic vice-president (not to mention two other EPSR supporters to the NEC as part of a ‘Campaign to support Scargill’ slate) was a secondary question. Much more pressing was the need to teach the sitting vice-president, Pat Sikorski, a lesson for having dared to raise veiled criticisms of Scargill’s “over-centralised” autocratic regime. He also wanted to ditch Sikorski’s fellow Fiscite, Brian Heron, from the NEC, and keep off their allies, Terry Dunn and Imran Khan.
Fisc’s bureaucratic fightback was launched at a meeting of the London regional committee, chaired by comrade Roshan Dadoo on Tuesday this week (Heron stepped down from the chair during the meeting). Around 30 London members were in Conway Hall to witness the passing of the anti-Bull resolution - reproduced below - by six committee votes to two (for: Carolyn Sikorski, Brian Heron, Terry Dunn, Colin Meade, John Mulrenan and Tony Link; against: Mandy Rose and Ranjeet Brar). The LRC handed out an appendix to the resolution, which consisted of a selection of homophobic quotations found in the EPSR and collated by Terry Dunn.
The resolution was moved by comrade Dunn and backed by Heron and Carolyn Sikorski. Comrade Heron said that the bourgeois press would take up “what the Weekly Worker has been banging on about week after week, month after month”. Comrade Sikorski agreed, and added that people read papers like The Daily Telegraph and The Sun more than the Weekly Worker.
Heron said that for the most part the special congress had had a “positive tenor”, with the majority of delegates correctly sticking to the agenda laid down by the NEC. But it was marred by the interventions of “one current”, which touted “cranky ideas of Marxist philosophy”. The election of Roy Bull - whom he refused to refer to as ‘comrade’ - was, he said, “a disaster”. Another unnamed current at the congress was “more rooted”, although it came from an “essentially sectarian” communist tradition which has undergone a “deep, thorough crisis”.
One of the latter trend’s representatives, NEC member Harpal Brar, spoke from the floor. He was scathing in his condemnation of the tactics of Fisc and their allies, mocking them for “calling on Scargill to use his ‘dictatorial powers’ to remove Bull”. Why have they only now cottoned on to the nature of Bull’s publication? - the Weekly Worker does not mention the EPSR, he said, without prefacing it with the word ‘homophobic’.
He also criticised comrade Heron for his “dishonest lip service” to Scargill. Members have a right to disagree with the leadership, said comrade Brar, but they should express their differences openly. In fact Heron was much more openly critical at the London committee meeting than he had been in Manchester. There he behaved in what he imagined to be a ‘disciplined’ fashion in refusing to say a word against the optimistic fantasies about the SLP advancing on all fronts so stridently projected by Scargill.
Comrade Heron told the regional committee meeting that congress had been “significantly less representative” than the December 1997 congress. The delegates were speaking for around 450 members at the maximum. He criticised Scargill’s unrealistic assessment of the SLP’s perspectives and made it clear that he stood by Pat Sikorski’s plans to clip the general secretary’s wings. Scargill should stick to doing what he does best - rallying the membership and addressing public meetings - while the party should exert its autonomy.
Comrade Heron still appears to believe that the SLP alone offers a future to the British working class - rejecting alliances with other left groups - even if he is not a part of Arthur’s party (the Fiscites are well aware that Scargill could act to bureaucratically exclude them, just as he previously voided communists and democrats - with their active connivance).
But they have no viable strategy to fight back. They do not even see the link between Scargill’s previous actions directed against the left and, for example, his intimidatory letter to the 53 initial signatories of their ‘Appeal for a special congress’, following the cancellation of the full, two-day 3rd Congress. Fisc and their allies are correctly calling for a fully democratic congress, as opposed to the Manchester rally, where no membership motions were permitted. But why on earth didn’t they use the special congress to try to win over the membership, instead of giving Scargill, Brar and Bull a clear run?
Their hopeless tactics have no chance of inspiring a demoralised membership to stay and fight. Three members of the LRC - Ann Goss, Tony Goss and Guy Smallman - have already resigned their party membership, and several others look certain to follow them. At the Conway Hall meeting committee member Colin Meade talked of the “hypocrisy that leaps out of Barnsley”, while John Mulrenan explained how he had been barely hanging on since the 1997 congress.
Meanwhile the EPSR’s Rod George was aggressively unrepentant, dismissing the “unbelievably stupid accusations of homophobia about Roy Bull’s paper”. The only London committee member with a modicum of principle on the question of how to beat Bull was comrade Mandy Rose, who voted against Terry Dunn’s resolution. While she opposed what he stood for, she was strongly against calling on Scargill to overturn the election results. He had to be voted out, she said.
The truth is that Fisc is every bit as bankrupt as Scargill, who could soon be presiding over nothing more than a rump of Stalinites, cranks and losers. But resignation and dropping out is no answer. Members should fight within the party to break with the sectarianism of both Scargill and Fisc. They should look to forging links with the left beyond the narrow confines of the SLP - primarily with the Socialist Alliances.
London Regional Committee resolution
The London regional committee of November 24 1998 resolves as follows:
(1) In light of clause IV, section 15, of the objects of the party in the SLP’s constitution,
“To establish that no person shall suffer discrimination socially, economically or politically because of their sexual orientation/preference”;
and clause II, section 4, on membership in the SLP’s constitution,
“Individuals and organisations ... which have their own propaganda, or which are engaged in the promotion of policies in opposition to those of the party shall be ineligible for affiliation to the party”;
Royston Bull should be immediately removed from his position as vice-president by the NEC.
(2) London region further resolves that Royston Bull’s “own propaganda”, the Economic and Philosophic Science Review, which has consistently promoted social, economic and political discrimination against homosexuals, thereby attacking our constitution, should be closed immediately and permanently.
(3) London region further resolves that the potentially fatal damage to our public image which would result from Bull remaining as a national officer of our party makes it completely impossible to consider any further electoral challenge on behalf of the party in London unless and until Bull is removed.
(4) London region further resolves to circulate this resolution, and its appendix, to every constituency of the London regional party and ask for constituency parties to endorse the position of the London region.