Republican Communist

Split averted

On Sunday April 8 the Scotland section of the Republican Communist Network met to discuss the March 24 all-Britain conference which had taken place in London.

It had been rumoured that the Edinburgh meeting was likely to result in a split, which would be a setback for the organisation in Scotland. However, from the outset it was clear that only the left nationalist Communist Tendency (three people in Scotland) had any intention of walking out. That is not to say that the others were happy with the outcome of the London conference, but these comrades respected democracy enough to accept that they had lost a vote and, if they wished to, could revisit the arguments at the next all-Britain conference in October.

The main concern expressed by comrades was the alleged attitude of the CPGB. It was suggested that the CPGB wants to use the RCN as a front for our politics in the Scottish Socialist Party. Presumably we are doing this by "immorally" having two members on the five-person editorial board. It was also suggested that one of our members, who had just been democratically elected to the board, stand down. This would arguably have had some credibility if the CPGB had packed out the London meeting with our members in order to force through our positions. But we did not have anything near a majority.

The other key issue which upset some comrades - mainly Allan Armstrong, leader of the Communist Tendency - was over majority voting. Bizarrely the comrade regards such a practice as undemocratic! In reality what has happened is that comrade Armstrong has found himself in a minority and, although he is free to publish or circulate his minority positions, the minority has no veto over the decisions of the majority.

This leads us on to the national question. Comrade Armstrong not only has a warped view of democracy, but also a warped view of nationalism. He attacked the CPGB by referring to us as British nationalists. Interesting, considering we have a consistently principled, anti-British state position and have championed the slogan and ideas of international socialism - against comrade Armstrong. As a left nationalist what he really objects to is our call for a federal republic - under conditions of capitalism - of England, Scotland and Wales (and a united Ireland). Though we stand for a deeper - and voluntary - unity and thus the right of self-determination for all constituent parts of Great Britain, we do so in the context of furthering world revolution. Comrade Armstrong can only describe this as "British nationalism" because in the name of a Scottish road to socialism and a Scottish workers' republic he is quite prepared to promote or excuse the actual division of the historically constituted working class.

The comrade then went on to describe the 'change for the better' in the International Socialist Movement (the SSP's nationalist-reformist leadership faction) since it split with the "Brit left" CWI. Apparently it had become more internationalist. Obviously comrade Armstrong's problem is the idea of organising on an all-Britain basis against the existing capitalist state. He stated that one solution to the divisions in the RCN would be to have a completely separate organisation in Scotland.

Although most comrades were against this, the idea of a separate Scottish journal was floated and was met with little opposition. If the RCN Scotland needs any separate publication, then it should come in the form of a bulletin. That would be excellent. After all a quarterly journal can hardly act as an organiser. However, a separate journal was clearly being viewed by our left nationalist friends as a step closer to a breakaway. It was no accident that the idea was raised at this time, when the left nationalists find themselves in a definite minority.

The outcome of the meeting was in many ways as strange as much of the content. Although there is no recognised provision for affiliation to the RCN, comrade Armstrong said that his CT were going to leave collectively, while individually they will remain members! This is with the possible exception of a certain Brian Higgins, who, it is claimed, has been "systematically excluded" from the organisation in England. Given that the comrade has only ever attended one meeting of the RCN, yet managed to walk out twice, I think it can be assumed that up to now he has "systematically excluded" himself.

So in reality the comrades in the CT have decided to stick with the RCN until at least October. The only decision taken which substantially alters their participation is that Allan Armstrong has stood down from the editorial board. Evidently the comrade believes that democracy is a good thing only if he always gets his way. Working alongside two CPGB comrades on a five-person editorial board was just too much to contemplate.

Sarah McDonald