WW archiveIssue 404
18 October 2001
Conference call; Pacifism wins; Cracking; Rehash
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was a joint sponsor, along with the Socialist Alliance, of the September 30 demonstration outside the Labour Party conference in Brighton. However, as the following e-mail to the SA makes clear, the CND is uncomfortable with its relationship with the SA, and particularly with the Socialist Workers Party. This is only to be expected, as the CND has long been wary of the revolutionary left - its preference historically being for the safer company of liberalistic pacifists, trade union bureaucrats and senile ?official communists?
Rally against the war
Anti-war movement begins to learn politics
As this Socialist Workers Party internal bulletin shows, the comrades are in a very upbeat mood - when aren?t they? The anti-war movement has provided a fertile fishing ground for their recruitment teams. Results seem excellent - though, as we know, there is always the revolving door problem. Not so long ago the SWP was boasting of 10,000 members. Every partisan of the Socialist Alliance will be pleased that the SWP, at the present time our biggest asset, is growing again. However, as shown by the virtual absence of the Socialist Alliance?s role in the anti-war movement, it is also right to characterise the SWP as our biggest problem. Presumably mention of the ?sectarians? who supposedly ?do nothing? is an indirect attack on fellow comrades in the Socialist Alliance. Yet the SA has the great virtue of turning everybody into builders because it is a common project and not simply about the attempt to build one sect. Another worry is that the SWP may now regard comrades such as our Socialist Alliance chair, Dave Nellist, as a ?sectarian? who talks ?a lot? but does ?nothing? and that is why the SWP was so determined not to have him it on the platform of the Friends Meeting House rally in London on September 25. As the leading faction in the Socialist Alliance, the SWP has a duty to build the SA, not least by ensuring that it takes initiatives and gives a political lead to the anti-war movement. To do that means drawing upon the energies and talents of all comrades.
SWP ignores decisions
Mobilise to defeat bill
We reprint here an article by Alan Thornett which appears in the October issue of Socialist Outlook, the monthly journal of the International Socialist Group. Comrade Thornett is a leading member of the ISG and the Socialist Alliance. His article is of particular interest because it represents a public divergence of views between the ISG and the Socialist Workers Party. The ISG has tended to keep its criticism of the SWP a private, diplomatic affair. This is because up until now the SWP, through its absence of any clear idea of where it wants to take the SA, has been content to let things take their course - and the logic of the SA has been in a partyist direction. But the SWP has decidedly put the brakes on and now constitutes the major block preventing the SA becoming a party. In so doing, it has consolidated the pro-party forces, despite its intentions. It seems the ISG now finds itself repelled by the deadening hand of SWP hegemony. Of course, comrade Thornett remains circumspect in his criticism, but his words are clear and to my mind express a much stronger pro-party sentiment than has previously emanated from the ISG. He explicitly states that in order for the Socialist Alliance to be effective it will need its own publication. The comrade also rejects the previous formulation of the SA being a ?united front ?,saying: ?It is a political organisation with an extensive programme and an elected leadership [which] has a global political view of the world.? This seems to me to point to the Socialist Alliance becoming a political party at the earliest possible opportunity. A position at loggerheads with that of the SWP. Comrade Thornett says: ?There is a danger that the SWP will see the alliance as just one of several united fronts dealing with aspects of the struggle.? Behind the diplomatic phrasing lies, of course, the recognition that this is indeed how the SWP is treating the Socialist Alliance already. Just one of many transmission belts into the already existing ?revolutionary party?: ie, the SWP itself. Such a situation is untenable. And it is a position that is uniting almost all the alliance against what is a narrow, sect-building perspective. The more independent activists enter the SA, the greater the demand will be for a party, of course. But we need to establish the basis for such a transformation now. Crucially, the pro-party elements need to unite to push for the most effective and democratic structure to be adopted at the December 1 conference, which will clearly open up the way for the Socialist Alliance to become a party. That is why it is disappointing that the ISG has not so far supported the platform, ?For a democratic and effective Socialist Alliance?. There is no coherent reason why not - other than an unwillingness to upset the SWP and a knee-jerk anti-CPGBism from the ISG?s more sectarian quarters. I welcome Alan Thornett?s article and trust it opens the way to building an even broader and more united pro-party bloc within the Socialist Alliance. Marcus Larsen SA executive committee
Fascists attack SA candidate
Bob Pitt argues that it is perfectly principled for socialists to defend the Taliban against imperialism
Immediately following its formation over July 31-August 1 1920, the Communist Party plunged into action. British imperialism was set on another attempt to destroy the Soviet Republic and restore capitalism. The CPGB was determined to stop it. A London Hands Off Russia committee had been formed at the initiative of pro-communist shop stewards in January 1919. This was quickly added to by other commit?tees around the country, culminating in a national Hands Off Russia com?mittee in the autumn. This commit?tee was the pinnacle of a broad, mass, militant movement. Its leadership brought together official representatives of big unions like the boilermakers, railway workers, engineers and miners, as well as the TUC?s parliamentary committee, in the form of AA Purcell, a founder-member of the CPGB Alongside them there were three vice-presi?dents - all CPGB founding mem?bers - Tom Mann, general secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, George Peet, secretary of the National Shop Stewards and Workers? Committee Movement, and Willie Gallacher of the Clyde Workers? Committee. The Hands Off Russia campaign scored a brilliant success in opposing the Polish war drive against Soviet Russia through stopping the arms ship Jolly George, on May 10 1920. Two months later Britain was again threatening war, this time demand?ing that the Red Army cease all hos?tilities against Poland. It was into these conditions that the CPGB was born. The first CPGB circular to branch secretaries (?Threatened war against Russia?) was issued over the signatures of Arthur MacManus and Albert Inkpin. It was a call to action. Then, on August 7 1920, the CPGB issued a call for the formation of councils of action; this was endorsed two days later at the first meeting of the Pro?visional Executive Committee. Hun?dreds of Hands Off Russia meetings happened all over the country and passed resolutions in line with the CPGB?s resolutions. It was in this atmosphere that the Labour Party executive and the TUC?s parliamen?tary committee (on which sat two CPGB members) met and agreed to threaten the government with a gen?eral strike. To organise this it set up a National Council of Action. On August 13 1,044 delegates met at Central Hall, Westminster. They demanded the end of all British sup?port for Poland and any other ?ef?forts against the Soviet government?, the ?withdrawal? of the navy block?ade, the recognition of the Soviet government and the ?establishment of unrestricted trading and commer?cial relationships between Great Britain and Russia?. Naturally CPGB chair Arthur MacManus saw these developments as potentially insurrectionary (?Towards revolution: our policy?). Faced with mass working class pres?sure, prime minister Lloyd George dared not act. War was stopped. Soviet Russia was saved.
K Kautsky - The agrarian question - London 1988, pp 453 (two volumes)