Simon Harvey of the SLP
Anti-sectarians booted out
The secretaries of two West Yorkshire Socialist Labour Party branches, Alan Brooke of Colne Valley and Graham Hellawell of Huddersfield, have been expelled for throwing their weight behind the Socialist Alliance (see correspondence reproduced below).
Both comrades have over the years made valiant, if isolated and uncoordinated, attempts to fight the sectarian regime of general secretary Arthur Scargill. At last year's annual conference comrade Brooke proposed a motion stressing the importance of "avoiding sectarian ideas and methods in our dealings with fellow socialists ... both inside and outside the party". Comrade Hellawell moved that, "Agreement should be reached in local, assembly and general elections for socialists not to stand against each other."
Needless to say, both motions were overwhelmingly defeated, but the comrades were subsequently seconded to serve on national executive sub-committees, where Scargill considered potential opposition would be neutered through their incorporation. They were listened to politely by Scargillite NEC members, but just about all their suggestions were ignored.
Earlier this year they stood in local elections as Socialist Labour, but made it clear that they were also part of Huddersfield Socialist Alliance. Two months ago they were elected joint secretaries of the SA prior to its launch rally on September 27, held in Huddersfield Sports Centre. Comrade Brooke was quoted in the local press as saying:
"We are urging our supporters to join and vote for the Socialist Alliance. We passionately believe in socialist unity: that is why we joined the SLP. Unfortunately, our party nationally seems to have moved away from this principle. By uniting local socialists under one umbrella, we will be able to present a more credible alternative to voters and campaign more effectively".
All six of the remaining active members in the two constituency SLPs backed the move to work wholeheartedly with the SA and, as a result, at least one other lay member has also been expelled so far. She was trapped by Scargill lackey Zane Carpenter, who rang her from Barnsley headquarters pretending to be "an SLP member interested in the Socialist Alliance".
Meanwhile, the NEC has called a meeting in London for December 2 on the general election. Scargill, writing in the October SLP Information Bulletin, has called for each region to send two or three representatives, making it clear that he expects particular comrades "who have already made very positive proposals" to come, rather than elected delegates.
There is, however, no mention in this edition of the Information Bulletin of the figure of 100 SLP candidates, announced to a stunned NEC in September. Nor does it get a mention in the latest Socialist News (October-November). Of course it could be that even Scargill has realised that perhaps 100 is a bit high - especially considering we barely have that many active members nationally. But I would not bank on it.
Scargill will stick with his ludicrous go-it-alone policy to the bitter end - even as the most loyal of his former followers desert the sinking ship.
Socialist News does not in fact contain any mention of the UK general election. But it does carry the discredited report on the September 24 presidential elections in Yugoslavia, written by SLP members Liz Screen, Mick Appleyard and Ian Johnson. As has already been noted, this whitewashes Milosevic's rigged poll as being completely "in accordance with procedures which we would expect in a democratic, free election".
As if to limit the damage, and perhaps calm the excesses of, for example, the ultra-Stalinites around NEC member Harpal Brar, Scargill himself has written a short introductory article. He points out to the extremist zealots, desperate to paint the demise of the old regime as an imperialist-inspired 'counterrevolution', that, "Slobodan Milosevic has admitted that Vojislav Kostunica won the election for president." He adds: "It would be foolish to construe the mass insurgence in Yugoslavia as nothing more than the creation of the west."
Foolish indeed, although Scargill does imply that the USA and Germany had at least a hand in it. But how about this for a bankrupt piece of despicable, pathetic, anti-democratic horse manure? - "One of Vojislav Kostunica's central pledges during the election campaign was to maintain Montenegro and reclaim Kosovo as part of Yugoslavia. The Socialist Labour Party hopes that not only is this promise kept, but that Kostunica will also demand the return to Yugoslavia of all territories, including Bosnia and Croatia, which were - with western 'help' - seceded from Yugoslavia."
Brar and co might justify the suppression of the democratic will of entire peoples through a desire to defend bureaucratic socialist dictatorships, but Scargill himself wants to see the right to self-determination crushed from the point of view of a vicarious Yugoslav or Serbian nationalist. 'Socialist' Milosevic or capitalist Kostunica - so long as they promote Greater Serbia, what's the difference?
No wonder even the most devoted ex-Scargillites can no longer stomach it.
November 2 2000
To Alan Brooke
I understand that you have joined or are supporting the Socialist Alliance, a decision which of course is contrary to the Socialist Labour Party's constitution, in particular clause II. Clause II (4) makes clear that any individual who has his or her own programme, principle and policy, distinctive and separate propaganda, or who is engaged in the promotion of policies in opposition to those of the party, shall be ineligible for affiliation to the party, whilst clause II (5) makes clear that a member of the party who becomes a member of and/or supports a political organisation other than the party shall automatically be ineligible to become or remain a party member.
In view of your decision to join/support the Socialist Alliance it is clear that you are no longer eligible to be a member of the Socialist Labour Party.
This is a confidential document and its contents must not be disclosed without prior permission from the author or the general secretary. Unauthorised disclosure will be considered detrimental to the Socialist Labour Party.
November 6 2000
To Arthur Scargill
Dear comrade Scargill
Thank you for your letter of November 2 2000.
You are incorrect in your assertion that by supporting the Socialist Alliance I am in breach of clause II (4) of the party constitution. I do not have my own programme, principles and policy or distinctive and separate propaganda. I am supporting the SA in order to promote the same policies, principles and programme which I subscribed to when I joined the SLP. Clause IV in fact advocates working with other socialists. This is all I am doing. This is more than can be said for others who remain in the party with their own agenda and party structure.
The difference is that you apparently support the Stalinist agenda of the Brar group which has operated as a party within our party since 1997. You have not responded to our concerns and have therefore forced us into this course of action. Your willingness to expel good comrades while tolerating these hardline Stalinist elements is an indication of how far our party has lost its way. This is very sad, as the SLP had so much promise. The SLP could have provided leadership to the working class - instead it has marginalised itself through its sectarian and undemocratic practices.
I will continue to fight for the principles on which the SLP was founded before it proved itself to be a bear pit of intrigue, duplicity and untruthfulness You often said you had dropped your baggage, but the ghost of Uncle Joe seems to follow you. Until you exorcise this ghoul the SLP will go nowhere.
(on behalf of Colne Valley and Huddersfield CSLPs)