CPGB aggregate

Campaign for an SA party

Last weekend?s aggregate of CPGB members, meeting in London, agreed to launch a campaign for a Socialist Alliance party immediately after next month?s general election.

The aggregate began with an opening by Marcus Larsen on the SA?s election campaign. The comrade first assessed the prospects for the bourgeois political parties, but then went on to concentrate his attention on the Socialist Alliance, which has a historic opportunity to build a viable opposition to the left of the Labour Party. He reported on the debates and decisions taken at the meeting of the SA executive in Birmingham the previous day.

The discussion following comrade Larsen?s opening focused on the problem of the Socialist Labour Party, which continues to refuse offers of cooperation with the SA and deliberately sets out to split the left vote. Comrade Larsen told the meeting Scargill?s party intends to stand 110-120 candidates, of which 35 are in constituencies where Socialist Alliance candidates are also standing. Some elements in the SA appear to hope that if the SLP is ignored it will disappear, but this is a mistake: it is necessary to expose Scargill?s aims and methods and bury him politically.

Comrade John Bridge said although some recruits to the SLP are honest workers attracted by Scargill?s past achievements, half the SLP candidates in London are members of the Stalin Society and their allies, and he believed these ultra-Stalinites deliberately seek to steal votes from the SA as a way of attacking what they see as their Trotskyite enemies.

Next on the agenda was a discussion of the future of the Socialist Alliance after the general election. As a natural result of comrades working together in the election campaign, a partyist culture is developing within the Socialist Alliance, with even the Socialist Workers Party leadership starting to think about the future in semi-partyist terms. Our task is to change the culture of the SA from that of the sects to one of a party: a genuine party - one that bases itself on democracy and centralism - does not require its members to agree with the programme, but to accept it. This means that members must have the permanent right to express minority viewpoints while carrying out majority decisions.

At the end of the debate the following motion was agreed:

 ?This CPGB members? aggregate notes:

  • that the Party has established itself as an integral part of the Socialist Alliance project;
  • that political contradictions on the question of party/united front have finally surfaced in print in the SWP.

 ?This aggregate believes:

  • that the primary question facing workers in Britain is the organisation of advanced workers in a single party;
  • that the logic of the Socialist Alliance project is an independent working class party with full factional rights.

 ?This members? aggregate resolves:

  • to launch after the election, with other forces in the Socialist Alliance, a pro-party statement;
  • to produce a pamphlet on the party question after the election;
  • to campaign after the election for an autumn conference of the Socialist Alliance with party organisation primary on the agenda.?

A minority of members were in favour of winning resolutions for an SA party, etc, before the election. However, the majority view was that until the polls close on June 7 all our efforts must be directed to campaigning for the maximum vote for and recruitment to the Socialist Alliance.

In the afternoon session comrade Sarah McDonald gave a short report on the situation in Scotland, where the Scottish Socialist Party is standing candidates in all 72 seats. However, comrade McDonald observed that its campaign so far has been very amateurish and low-key compared with the imagination and verve of the Socialist Alliance, as described by comrade Larsen. Despite that its leadership has had a very worthwhile experience in election work, getting Tommy Sheridan elected to the Holyrood parliament.

Following the merger between the SSP and the SWP the left in Scotland is now united to all intents and purposes. This merger should encourage by example the partyist project in England and Wales. The next logical step is an all-Britain party. Comrade McDonald hoped that the presence of the SWP would act as a counterbalance to the SSP?s nationalist orientation. It is noticeable that Socialist Worker, which has increased coverage of Scotland, announced recently its platform?s advocacy of working class unity, in contrast to its previous agnosticism. It was pointed out in debate, however, that the SWP is talking only of economic, rather than political, unity of the working class in Britain. The CPGB is the only organisation that has consistently called for an all-Britain Socialist Alliance party, and we shall continue to do so.

Comrade McDonald predicted that the entry of the SWP would make the position of smaller minorities in the SSP, such as the Republican Communist Network, less secure, but hoped the RCN could play a positive role in the struggle for a principled internationalist line within the SSP.

There was some disagreement about the attitude the CPGB should take to the RCN. Some comrades pointed out that the RCN is very weak and paralysed by its nationalist wing, and described as wasteful any directing of comrades approaching the CPGB into the RCN. Others argued that as the CPGB forces in Scotland are still themselves negligible, with a lack of experienced cadre, we should continue to support the RCN. As comrade Peter Manson said, the RCN has the potential to rally anti-nationalists in Scotland.

A brief report on preparations for the Communist University 2001 by national organiser Mark Fischer concluded the aggregate. Over 30 comrades from a wide range of groups have been invited to speak, on topics around the broad theme of ?Beyond anti-capitalism?.

Opportunities to build for the CU were discussed, and also suggestions for alternative formats for the sessions. As at previous Communist Universities, speakers who will create controversy have been invited, with the aim of achieving a clash of ideas. This provides the best environment for comrades to absorb our culture of high theory and free debate. In this way the CU can contribute to the process of creating a united, all-Britain, democratic centralist party.

Mary Godwin