Mike Davies?s letter raises some important issues that we need to address in order to develop the Welsh Socialist Alliance (Weekly Worker May 3). There are also, in my opinion, other issues which need to be addressed.
We in the Gwent branch of the WSA launched the branch late last year with a good public meeting with an inclusive range of speakers. Since then we have raised over ?1,000 in funds, over half of which has come from the public as a result of campaigning over the closure of Llanwern steelworks. We also initiated a campaign to stop the closure of a primary school in Cwmbran, through leafleting hundreds of houses and the schools themselves. We pulled a public meeting of 30 people on a wet Friday night in Cwmbran, which was attended by the education executive on the council and his deputy.
The campaign was then taken up primarily by the parents and children of the affected school, resulting in two successful lobbies of the council, eventually forcing them to back off, at least for now. The WSA has been present at all these activities and has won respect and support from the parents.
We are at present busy campaigning for Steve Bell, our candidate at the general election in Torfaen. I have to say that I believe the way to build the WSA is for us to relate to the needs of our class in the ways outlined above. Socialists in Wales should not be indifferent to people whose Welsh identity is important to them, but we in Gwent have not found this to a major issue or in any way a block on us developing as an alliance.
As for developing and broadening the WSA, this is exactly what we in the Socialist Workers Party believe should happen, and it is good to know Cymru Goch shares this view. As for the SWP, we have made building the alliance a priority since last summer/autumn - a priority above building our own organisation in fact. It will continue to be prioritised after the election also. We want a broad, inclusive organisation which can campaign not just at election times, but on all the issues that affect our class.
I have to say candidly, however, that Mike?s description of Cymru Goch members? activities in the north are at odds with what appears to be happening, or rather not happening, here in the south. As far as I know CG members have not participated in the national council meetings since conference and are not active at present. If this is because, as I am led to understand, that CG took a decision not to stand any members for the Westminster election and are sitting it out at the moment, it would be useful to know.
In respect of other issues mentioned, such as the foot and mouth crisis, the South Wales Echo had as its front-page story a report on a ?packed public meeting? initiated by the WSA in Cardiff (April 28). I am aware that WSA members have attended a similar meeting near Swansea.
Whilst acknowledging there have been and continue to be problems at the centre, there have been positive developments also. The chair of the WSA, Martin Chapman, has been working tremendously hard over the past few months, improving communication and setting up a website, amongst other things. Also, to blame the centre for everything is a form of reformism, waiting for someone to act on our behalf. As revolutionaries we should be taking initiatives ourselves if the material we want is slow to appear or not being developed centrally. This is not to argue for inactivity at the centre - development and improvements will hopefully continue. Until then, we may have to take initiatives in the branches that we would have thought should have been done centrally.
When Mike refers to non-aligned members not rejoining in Wrexham, might this be more indicative of difficulties locally then at the centre? It is to their credit that CG members in the north are active and indeed putting forward positive suggestions such as the development of an e-group, which has been acted upon.
I believe there is an excellent opportunity to build the WSA into a big pole of attraction to those people who are disillusioned by New Labour, with Plaid Cymru also not being able to provide a socialist answer. It is incumbent upon us socialists to provide that answer, and to develop the broad, inclusive, socialist organisation that is required to achieve this.
There are other socialists who want the WSA project to fail. We want the WSA to build and succeed in becoming a serious pole of attraction. It must be done!
Martin Thomas?s attack on the CPGB reflects to a large extent the same old method that led the Alliance for Workers? Liberty to its earlier Labour-loyalism (Weekly Worker May 10). This fetishises existing structures, when these have become hollowed out, bureaucratic shells, ceasing to reflect real class-conscious activity by a real working class movement.
However, having said that, Martin Thomas does manage to make a telling point when he writes: ?To want to ?reforge the CPGB? is odd. The CPGB was, throughout all living political memory and 80% of its entire history, a despicable counterrevolutionary force, and for its earlier 20% far from an ideal model. The odd formulation can be explained only by the fact that that the CPGB uniquely fitted the bill of a ?party? supplied to the working class by external well-wishers - or, rather, ill-wishers - in the Kremlin, without whose subsidies and prestige it could not conceivably have continued through so many betrayals and arbitrary shifts of line.?
It is rather unfortunate that this question has to play any role in the political talks between ourselves and the AWL. Indeed, the absurdity of the formal position of the CPGB Provisional Central Committee that Martin Thomas polemicises against, that the CPGB under Pollitt/Stalin and their successors was some kind of ?class party?, is obvious to anyone who knows anything of history. The Stalinised CPGB in the 1930s was the mono-ideological sect to end all mono-ideological sects - and a compulsory part of its ?ideology? was Byzantine flattery of Stalin and, to say the least, servility towards his successors in the totalitarian Soviet elite. There is a flagrant contradiction between our advocacy and practice of a genuinely democratic centralism, on the one hand, and the ambiguity in our ?party? position, which implies that we wish to ?reforge? that kind of organisation, on the other.
There is also a flagrant contradiction between the PCC?s polemic against the orthodox Trotskyists? ?defence of the USSR?, fetishism of state property, etc on the one hand, and the insistence of comrades on making some kind of critical defence of the Stalinised CPGB into a point of polemic against the AWL, etc on the other. If the Soviet Union was not a workers? state, and the Soviet elite a thoroughly anti-working class social formation that was in no sense part of the international working class movement (a position that I believe to be correct), then it is simply sentimental incoherence to hold that the Stalinised CPGB, which was massively financed by that counterrevolutionary USSR elite, was some kind of class party.
In reality, it was obviously, as a simple corollary of this analysis, a party which, insofar as it had a working class base, had a fundamental class contradiction in its make-up - in many ways similar to the Labour Party, insofar as the fundamental loyalty of its upper crust was to that thoroughly anti-working class social formation and not to the working class.