Simon Harvey of the SLP

Disgraceful sectarianism

As readers of this paper will know, Arthur Scargill has since the formation of his party consistently and stubbornly refused to even discuss with other left groups and formations the possibility of at least reaching agreement to avoid the folly of socialist standing against socialist.

Scargill?s view is quite simple: the Socialist Labour Party is ?the only force capable of bringing about a fundamental change in our society? (SLP Manifesto May 2001). Leaving aside the not insignificant question of the role of the working class in bringing about ?fundamental change?, Scargill has decreed that the 400-strong SLP is Britain?s socialist party and that the other, larger or more influential, organisations of the left should disband. Their members must forget their own distinctive politics, wind up their publications and simply join Socialist Labour (if he lets them in).

Rather obviously, this is not the way to go about building the single working class party that we need. There must be a voluntary, democratic union if a party worthy of the name is to be created. That is why the formation of the Socialist Alliance was viewed - rightly in my opinion - as a step towards the genuine article. That is why I have been calling for the SLP to cooperate with other left forces, throw its lot in with the alliance and reject its go-it-alone sectarianism. Participation in the Socialist Alliance would have given Socialist Labour a new lease of life as well as boosting the process of rapprochement. It would have taken us nearer to the realisation of the mass working class fightback against New Labour and neo-liberalism that Scargill claims to want.

Unfortunately, however, such moves are an anathema to Scargill. Interviewed in The Independent, he laughably informed Paul Waugh that the SA were ?splitters? who had a ?ragbag of policies?. That outburst caused Waugh to comment that ?he really, really hates those dastardly rivals for the leftwing vote? (May 1). Our general secretary concluded by claiming that, ?The Socialist Alliance is a conglomeration of Trotskyist parties including the Militant Tendency. It is not a political party. It?s got less candidates than we have.?

But the alternative to unity is continuing decline. Far from ?growing? - Scargill ludicrously claimed 6,200 members in the same interview - our party is continuing to shrink and, to be honest, it is a minor miracle that Scargill has managed to cobble together the number of candidates he has. True, in the end he might not have got exactly the 116 he boasted of, but the actual total is no mean achievement, especially when you consider that the SLP has hardly any activists, next to no structure and a grossly inefficient, not to say chaotic, organisation. Through Scargill?s sheer graft and obduracy (and with a little help from mysterious undisclosed donors) the SLP has managed to appear real, despite the absence of any sign of activity anywhere in the country.

The election broadcast, screened on May 21, was a case in point. Yes, it was a low-budget affair, but it managed to portray the SLP in a reasonable light. Having actor Ricky Tomlinson featuring so prominently was something of a coup and the scenes showing the Royle family star chatting informally with Scargill were well done. But, facing the camera, the SLPers were more than a little wooden: peacenik Katrina Howse looked back nostalgically to when ?our health service was the best in the world?, while Harpal Brar had to read out this typical Scargillite piece of national reformism: ?The cost of restoring the pension link could easily be met if Britain simply withdrew from the European Union.?

The only other member shown was Brar?s ultra-Stalinite comrade, Amanda Rose. Like Brar, the London regional president, comrade Rose is a candidate on June 7, and, like 34 other SLPers in England, including comrade Howse, and 12 in Scotland, she is disgracefully opposing the united left challenge in the shape of the SA and the Scottish Socialist Party. SLP policy is to ignore all correspondence from the left calling for an agreement not to split the vote, let alone a united campaign.

A significant proportion of SLP candidates are followers or allies of comrade Brar, a leading light in the Stalin Society. These include daughter Joti, candidate for Holborn and St Pancras, who is opposing the SA?s Candy Udwin. Comrade Brar junior is editor of the Stalinite Women for Socialism, the irregular SLP women?s journal. Ella Rule (Hornsey and Wood Green) is standing against the SA?s Louise Christian. Comrade Rule is head of the SLP women?s section and runs one of two rival societies for friendship with North Korea. Her son, Carlos, a leading figure in the youth section who shares his mother?s adoration of bureaucratic socialism, is also opposing the SA - in Ealing, Acton and Shepherds Bush.

Several of comrade Brar?s Stalinite comrades from the Indian Workers Association are also candidates. These include Avtar Singh Jouhl, former IWA general secretary, who will be opposing the SA?s Caroline Johnson in Birmingham Perry Barr; and Hardev Dhillon, who lives in Greenwich but, in a rare display of enlightenment, deliberately chose to contest in the neighbouring constituency of Erith and Thamesmead, leaving a clear run for the SA (Scargill, however, decided to parachute in Margaret Sharkey, in an attempt to wreck the campaign of the SA?s Kirstie Paton in Greenwich and Woolwich). Other IWA Stalinites include Surinder Cheema (Feltham and Heston) and Surinder Virdee (Birmingham Ladywood).

Several other Brar followers are also candidates: Iris Cremer (Brent East) is another friend of North Korea, while Katherine McGavigan (Glasgow Anniesland - opposing the SSP?s Charlie McCarthy), Dave Morgan (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) and Robert Siggins (Dagenham - opposing the SA?s Berlyne Hamilton) are also known for their attachment to JV Stalin.

Steve Cook, candidate for Islington North, is a character with an interesting history. According to the biography published in Socialist News, he ?writes on a wide range of political issues? (election special, May). In fact he is a former journalist on both the Communist Party of Britain?s Morning Star and the New Communist Party?s New Worker. Comrade Cook, who is renowned for his moderate drinking habits, left the CPB in the early 90s because it was ?too soft on Trotskyites?, and joined the NCP. He proved too much even for these people. He was eventually expelled from the NCP amidst allegations of financial irregularities.

Dave Roberts (Leicester East) comes from a different ultra-Stalinite stable. He was a staunch supporter of Royston Bull?s Economic and Philosophic Science Review until Bull pulled his followers out of the SLP after he was first disciplined and then expelled soon after his election as SLP vice-president in 1998. The EPSR is notorious for its ranting style and amateurish photocopied format - unchanged for more than 20 years - not to mention its occasional outbursts of undisguised homophobia. Scargill decided to give Bull the boot so soon after promoting him to vice-president because he insisted on maintaining his publication.

But comrade Roberts did not go along with the EPSR withdrawal from the SLP. He had touched what was for him the ?big time?. After all, he was on the SLP?s national executive. So he preferred to part company with Bull - organisationally, but not politically. In 1999 he was the SLP representative at an international youth conference in Tripoli organised by the Libyan regime and ended his speech to the conference with these words:

?We hope one day to be able to return to a future celebration of the Al Fatah revolution, and announce that we too have defeated capitalism in our countries and are joining with you in the building of a socialist world. In the meantime we say: Long live the Great Socialist Libyan Peoples Jamahiriya. Long live Muammer Al Gadaffy. Al Fatah forever!? (see Weekly Worker April 27 2000).

Nicola Hoarau is the candidate for Ilford North. Nothing remarkable about that - except for the fact that she is the partner of RMT deputy general secretary Bob Crow. Comrade Crow, officially still a member of the SLP NEC and its London regional committee, has publicly backed the SA?s Louise Christian in Hornsey and Wood Green against the SLP?s Korea-friendly Ella Rule.

Scargill himself is representing the SLP in Hartlepool, where membership consists of precisely one comrade, who was so disgusted at the general secretary publicly announcing his candidacy without even informing the local ?branch? that she now considers herself a supporter of the SA. It is said that even Scargill?s election agent is a closet alliance supporter. The SA is of course backing Scargill in Hartlepool.

However, where Socialist Labour insists on opposing the SA and SSP, I confess that I favour following the example of Bob Crow. Vote for unity and against Scargill?s increasingly desperate sectarianism.