Ian Donovan reports that I stayed at the SA conference after the Socialist Party walkout and thereby broke with Taaffes organisation (Weekly Worker December 6).
It is certainly true that I stayed, but how Ian Donovan knows any more is unclear - perhaps he is gifted with powers of telepathy. Ian Donovans is a particularly infantile method of reporting. Surely, if Donovan had wanted to know something about my relationship with the Socialist Party, he should have done me the courtesy of asking me. Instead, he has resorted to the tactics of the tabloid hack - presumably in order to further his own political agenda.
Telling the truth? I think its important - perhaps the CPGB does not.
Im writing in response to Peter Mansons piece, where he briefly notes that two of the new Socialist Alliance appeals committee (myself and Candy Udwin) are Socialist Workers Party members (Weekly Worker December 6). I want to correct this. I am not a member of the SWP, nor have I ever been. Rather Im a non-aligned member of Sheffield SA (something youre welcome to confirm with any comrades up here).
James White, who proposed the appeals committee, asked me to be a member of it. I have no idea who suggested me to him (given that the whole thing was pretty chaotic and our conversation lasted a couple of minutes at most), but, given that Jamess interest was in putting together a slate of five independents, I assume that it was on this basis that I was suggested. The SWP slate was put together after Jamess and merely took three independents from his and added an SWP and an International Socialist Group member (no-one from the SWP talked to me about this at the time and I was surprised to be on their slate).
In addition while I happily work with SWP comrades within the SA and on lots of campaigns, I am not in any way tied to their positions (especially to the extent that these concern the future of the SA) and voted against the SWP line more often than not at the conference (including voting in favour of Jamess independents-only appeals committee).
Clearly this is pretty trivial, but I thought that it was easy enough to put straight.
I, like other comrades, was taken aback by the position of Workers Power at the Socialist Alliance conference on December 1.
Why is this? I hear you say. Well, correct me if Im wrong, but they put forward a sort of halfway house between a federal alliance and a party. This in itself is no crime, but just a few weeks before the conference WP comrades, whilst debating the future of the alliance, explained to myself and other SA comrades that they were going for the democratic centralist party option.
Their backward step was surely a setback for the pro-partyites in the SA, a step back from what the class needs at this time. This is no isolated incident: my experience of WP tells me (if the members I know are in any way representative of this group) that the comrades are in no way serious about the SA, or much else for that matter. One comrade (who shall remain nameless - I wouldnt want him to be reprimanded by the Hoskisson-King-Ford triumvirate) said that he would do everything he could to get expelled from the SA now that the SWP constitution had been adopted.
Surely this is a dishonest attitude to the whole project. The SA project needs honesty and communist unity, not petty sectarian point-scoring, as typified by WP. To WP I say this. If your plan as a party is to get expelled on purpose, then go now. If this isnt, then I apologise, comrades, but clarification on your position would be beneficial for the SA project.
Peter Manson is keen to contest my claim that the Socialist Alliance manifesto is a republican socialist manifesto (Letters Weekly Worker November 15).
He is not happy that I am using the term republican Socialist Alliance to describe the SA network in England. He admits that it is a factually accurate description. He says comrade Craig is of course quite correct when he states that the SA manifesto calls for the abolition of the constitutional monarchy. But in addition the manifesto does not call for the abolition of parliament. That means a democratic republic in anybodys book. I rest my case on the facts of the matter, mLord.
But Peter does not like the implications of these political facts. If he accepts the democratic republican manifesto, it is surely a slippery slope to somewhere horrible. We might have to retitle Jack Conrads pamphlet for a republican Socialist Alliance party. The reprint would cost money!
Worse still, Peter is worried that any Tom, Dick and Harry might turn up and call it a green Socialist Alliance on the grounds the manifesto also contains demands for the protection of the environment. Then someone might call it an economistic Socialist Alliance because the SA priority pledges almost exclusively trade union-type demands perfectly summed up the economism of the majority.
But who is disputing this? I have drawn attention to economism on many occasions. We are dealing with the central contradictions of the SA. But then I am not refusing to call it an economistic SA on the grounds that I am frightened of the implications. In fact we could call it an economistic, green, republican socialist manifesto. I am not frightened of that either. As any scientist knows, any phenomenon can be described from a variety of angles.
What is clear is that the SA manifesto is not a communist manifesto. The SA is not a communist alliance. The SA is not in the process of becoming a Communist Party. But I will agree there is a small minority of republican communists within it. I will say that a republican socialist party would be the best terrain for this minority to work in as a platform or faction.
So why should we pluck up the courage to call it a republican socialist manifesto? It is simply a tactic in the fight against economism. It is in the interests of the working class movement that we take every single opportunity to fight economism. Yet Peter says it would be wrong to call it a republican socialist manifesto, because the SA is jam packed with economists.
So how do we know who the economists are? It is easy. Calling it a republican Socialist Alliance provokes an argument with them. They come out of the woodwork, start complaining and writing letters to the Weekly Worker. We renamed the SSP in our constitutional submission to the December conference as a republican socialist party. This provoked Allan Thornett (ISG) to say at a Southwark SA meeting that, whilst he was in favour of the SSP, he didnt like calling it republican. He thought it seemed to imply that the Revolutionary Democratic Group wasnt in favour of Scottish independence and wanted an all-British party!
So Peter has two possible positions. Either he is a covert economist and has come out to defend his friends against my provocations. Or he agrees that calling it a republican socialist alliance is a factual observation and valid provocation, but for tactical reasons he doesnt want to provoke the economists right now. In which case he needs to explain what his tactical thinking actually is, so we can judge it. We await his comments with interest.
Jim Watt tells a nice story about Gibraltar, the underdog, being pursued by the nasty Spanish, and that is largely what it is: a story, fiction (Weekly Worker December 6).
A close examination of the recent history of Gibraltar and the daily behaviour of the average Gibraltarian will reveal that the Gibraltarians are far from being the underdogs, but a small group of people intent on not losing their privileged position whereby they can milk the UK and Spain for everything theyve got, both at the same time, and without owing allegiance to either.
When Franco closed the border, Gibraltar received generous help from Morocco and the UK. When the border reopened the housewives of Gibraltar immediately forgot the past and switched to doing their shopping in Spain, where the products were of lesser quality but cheaper, in the process bankrupting some of the local Gibraltar businesses and greatly reducing the imports from the UK. Not very patriotic of the Gibraltarians, but very typical.
Gibraltar, like most places, has people who need dialysis treatment. Spain generously offered facilities which were eagerly accepted by the Gibraltarians. However, they never paid for the treatment. Only when the debt had reached many millions of pesetas and Spain had complained to the UK government was the debt finally cleared.
Most Gibraltarians speak Spanish as their principal language - some do not speak English. They watch Spanish TV more than British, they spend most of the money and all of their leisure time in Spain. Many have two cars - one in Gibraltar and one in Spain. Many will drive 120 kilometres to Malaga airport to get a flight to the UK as its cheaper than flying from Gibraltar.
If Spain is so bad why dont they stay within Gibraltar, thereby denying their sworn enemies the benefit of their considerable spending power? Its because they want the best of both worlds and the UK taxpayer is funding their hypocrisy.
What a funny, navel-gazing bunch of comrades you are. You cant just be a breakaway from a breakaway: youve got to be a faction of a faction as well, not to mention a sect within a sect. All this effort just to lose a deposit. Whos going to pay - you or the SWP? It looks like youre going to have to split it fewer ways now
Listen, comrades, Im confused. Ive counted at least six Communist Parties, two Revolutionary Communist Parties, three Socialist Parties, half a dozen tendencies. Marxist-Leninist or Marks and Spencerish - Im all messed up; I cant tell the difference. Northern Alliance or Socialist Alliance; cluster bombs or rolled up papers for a democratic centralist pounding.
Talking of which, bin Laden certainly sorts the men from the boys. Who are Fightback anyway? They sound well ard. But come on, comrades, cut the crap, dump the dialectics - just get out there and kill someone, for fucks sake!
Dont you ever just feel that youre all shut up in a very small, dark room together? Dont bother yourselves about the working class, by the way - were OK. Weve all got our fridges and our airline tickets or, if we havent, well nick them off the asylum-seekers.
By the time youve worked out what side youre on the war will be over anyway.