Perspectives 2002

Our organisation is currently discussing its perspectives for the coming 12 months of political work. Unfortunately, given the extensive debate on the Socialist Alliance newspaper at our recent Party aggregate, we did not get to the 'Perspectives' agenda item (see Weekly Worker January 17). Of course, the SA is hardly peripheral to this discussion. However, it is worthwhile highlighting some other themes before comrades meet again. Party members are encouraged to contribute internally on the Party's e-discussion list, as well as in the pages of this paper. The SA remains key. By setting an ambitious agenda of work - in particular, the development of an effective SA paper - we take the necessary steps to transform our comrades and organisation. CPGB members are effective 'dissenters' and representatives of principled minority positions in the alliance. They must now advance to become more like leaders of the SA project as a whole. This is essentially a question of hegemony. We have gone some way in that direction already through the medium of the Weekly Worker, a widely read and respected publication. However, we need to fight to give this organisational form through being the most consistent and principled advocates of a pro-party bloc in the SA, a grouping that needs to challenge the political leadership of the SWP. This is not a narrow, sectarian project, but one that puts the fight for revolutionary unity at its centre. Generally, we are in a good position. Our perspectives for most of the 1990s were framed by the priorities of 'care and maintenance'. Given the corrosive effects of the collapse of bureaucratic socialism internationally and the strategic defeat of our class domestically, the opportunities for growth or fertile political intervention were extremely limited. An important achievement of this period was to maintain the organisation. In certain political spheres we were even able to make progress. Our intervention in the Socialist Labour Party was important. We picked up comrades, good people who play leading roles in our organisation today. Far more significant, however, was our political impact in Scargill's organisation. The SLP provided us with a national platform to fight for the type of party we believed to be necessary for the working class. First, organised on a revolutionary programme. Second, as an indispensable precondition of that, an open, democratic as well as centralised internal regime. Many of the same political figures we encountered first in the SLP - both as sympathisers and sometimes quite bitter opponents - we have gone on to work alongside in the SA. The SA represents a form of political continuity in a process which the SLP - irrespective of the subjective wishes of Scargill - was part of. It is a different forum for the same fight. That is, for the formation of a viable working class political alternative to Labourism. Through our battles in the SLP, carried over into the SA today, we have been able to help shape this development positively. We have successfully fought for democracy in the alliance, for an ambitious approach and serious commitment. The project is reaching a critical point, however, with the determination of the SWP to limit the SA's remit to sporadic electoral work. Scared that the logic of the SA leads in a partyist direction - which it does - the SWP leaders are in danger of turning the alliance into little more than the electoral front of their sect. This must be fought. As a collective we have to take a very serious look at those features of our organisation that may weaken this struggle. We remain plagued by amateurism. True, when we compare ourselves to much of the rest of the left, we look pretty sharp. But that should not be our yardstick. We have to measure up to the tasks that political life presents to us. Our amateurism reflects itself unevenly across the Party. After all, we run viable businesses, produce a weekly press, have grown over the past period and have much more of a national 'spread'. However, the unevenness between individuals and Party organisations notwithstanding, our lack of professionalism is a deep flaw. It finds reflection in many facets of our work: l Our difficulty integrating new comrades. Much of our material and approach to recruitment is sluggish, unimaginative and stuck in templates from the early 1990s. l We have been only partially successful in replicating across the country the best practice of the organisation as a whole. While we have established a fragile infrastructure in a number of areas outside London, we have not been able to fully inculcate the best aspects of our approach to work in our new cells and branches. To an extent, this is inevitable. After all, London is the centre for all major currents on the left, the political centre of the country. Its pace will almost inevitably be higher than other areas in normal periods. However, this disparity has been exacerbated by our unprofessional approach. l Education is London is inadequate, but ongoing. Outside London it is either non-existent or episodic. Developing our cadre in an all-rounded way is vital. l In general, our organisation is characterised by low theoretical levels. This expresses itself in a tendency to technocratism or localism, including amongst some leading comrades. The debate around this year's perspectives must make a sober examination of our organisation - its strengths and weaknesses. This could be a crucial year for the Socialist Alliance. We bear a responsibility for ensuring that we are fighting fit as an organisation, able to tug the project in a healthy direction. Mark Fischer national organiser