The Revolutionary Democratic Group has now formally ended its designation as a faction of the Socialist Workers Party, until circumstances make it possible to build a new faction. The RDG was formed in 1984 by ex-SWP members, the majority of whom had been supporters of an internal faction, known as the ‘Republican Faction’ (1980-81). Later the RDG adopted the designation of ‘faction of the SWP’ for three reasons.
First, it made clear that we had no pretensions to become a new party or new tendency. We aimed to become the main critic of the SWP from a position distinct among the SWP’s other Marxist critics. We aligned ourselves with the SWP on the key question of the USSR, in opposition to the Stalinists and Trotskyists. We had no illusions in so-called bureaucratic socialism and recognised that farm, factory and service workers were a class exploited by the ‘red’ bourgeoisie. Third, it indicated our practical orientation to SWP members and activities.
In the early 1990s the RDG openly campaigned against the SWP leadership on the basis that:
- It had no clear political programme
- It refused or failed to stand candidates against the Labour Party
- Its economist theory of politics led the SWP to tail the constitutional politics of Blair. Having no independent republican programme or perspective, it was and is reduced to being the trade union tail of Laboursim.
Since the 1997 general election the SWP has been forced to half consider some of these views as a result of objective circumstances in the class struggle. The SWP has begun to make the first tentative moves to break from Blair by standing its own candidates. Meanwhile the practical orientation of the RDG changed as a result of the rapprochement process with the CPGB and the attempt by Scargill to fill the vacuum on the left. Although the SWP was and is ideologically superior to Scargillism, the SLP was a more militant organisation in seeking to directly oppose Blair in elections. We had no illusions in Scargill, but unlike the more sectarian organisations of the left, we were ready to join and fight for a broad left (ie, communist-Labour) party.
Whilst Scargill was one of the few socialist leaders able to draw the left together, his own style and political methods proved fatal. The left wing of the SLP was unable to effectively challenge Scargill or win the party to a broader, more democratic approach to politics. The SLP lost its potential to unite sections of the left and became a small Stalinist sect.
During this period the RDG gave up its practical orientation to the SWP. In practice we are not a faction of the SWP. All comrades associated with us were aware of this. A gap has existed between our formal designation as a faction and political reality. We have decided to close that gap. Even if we were to reorientate to the SWP, our factional title would ring hollow after a period of absence. We would need to build a new faction from scratch rather than declare it to a surprised audience.
The SWP remains in a strategic position within the communist movement. Anybody who ignores this fact is not dealing with reality. We do not rule out relaunching or rebuilding a faction if and when circumstances are right. But over the last period our perspective has focused on uniting revolutionary democratic communists, eventually into a new tendency. With this in mind we are working with CPGB, our main allies, and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Communist Tendency and the recently formed Republican Communist Network. Here lies the potential for a more serious challenge to the SWP than anything the RDG was able to muster in the past.
Over the last period the RDG has contributed many articles to the Weekly Worker. It has become the main channel for our views, whilst assisting the CPGB’s desire to create an open paper. We have now decided to make a regular financial contribution. Our comrades will also be prepared to sell the paper on appropriate occasions.
Revolutionary Democratic Group