SA paper 'not viable'

Letter to CPGB from AWL, February 22 2002

Dear comrades We've been discussing the 'unofficial Socialist Alliance paper' project, in the light of our recent meeting with you. Our conclusions are as follows. At present there is no sufficient body of unaffiliated SA members actively committed to this project to create a broadly-based unofficial SA paper. There is a fair scattering of SA members who would like to see an unofficial SA paper come into existence, but no halfway substantial body of such members with acknowledged and reliable representatives who would be active in the actual production of the paper. Nor is there any short-term prospect of finding such a body of members by further phone calls, leaflets, or visits. The 'unofficial Socialist Alliance paper' project thus reduces itself, in the short term, to the project of a merger of the Weekly Worker and Solidarity, with the active support of a scattering of other SA members. That might be fruitful. We want more collaboration and discussion between your tendency and ours; we would like to develop a sound basis for fusion of the two tendencies. However, an immediate merger of our papers would be, so to speak, 'adventurist' in this context. Rather than aiding political clarification, it would probably impede it by enmeshing it with the administrative and organisational difficulties and disputes inevitably accompanying a merger of publications. Specifically, our differences on 'partyism' would cause difficulties with such a merged publication. Your stated view is that: "Our central aim is to reforge the Communist Party of Great Britain. Without this Party the working class is nothing; with it, it is everything." Even leaving aside the crotchet whereby the future revolutionary working class party is given a name which in all living memory except those of the most aged denoted something very different, this is a bad way of arguing the need (on which we emphatically agree) for a revolutionary party. The working class is not "nothing" without a revolutionary party. If it were, it is hard to see how such a party could be created. And what the working class can become with an authentic mass revolutionary party depends on what that party does, how it responds to the working class and innovations from the working class how it deals with the crises in its own midst which would almost certainly accompany a revolutionary crisis in society. In short, your concept of 'partyism' seems to us fetishistic. But then you translate that general fetishism into a particular fetishism of the Socialist Alliance. Since the Socialist Alliance is the nearest thing we have to a party which it is in approximately the same sense that one or two ex-army comrades are the nearest thing we have to an armed wing, therefore the putative paper should deal with every question through the prism of "what should the Socialist Alliance do about it". We do not believe that the future revolutionary party will emerge through straight-line development of the Socialist Alliance. By force of reality, not by force of us not being 'partyist' enough, the Socialist Alliance actually is "one area of work" at present. It is not irrelevant in trade union struggles, for example, but quite often it is not central. We should discuss this further and best in the form of a direct discussion of principles, rather than via wrangling over headlines of articles, and suchlike, in a joint paper set in motion without adequate political preparation. A casual glance at the Weekly Worker and at Solidarity reveals a great difference in orientation. We agreed, in the joint leaflet we put out at the SA 'independents' conference, that the proposed paper would have to be one "primarily oriented to working class concerns and battles, to the labour movement, and to other struggles of the oppressed, a paper which could be sold at workplaces, in trade union branches, on the streets and door to door, rather than one focused on internal disputation in the SA". Yet you have objected when we have deduced that this means a paper substantially different in orientation from the present Weekly Worker. This needs more discussion, too. We propose, therefore, that we: (a) continue the argument for a Socialist Alliance paper, and for an unofficial Socialist Alliance paper; but explain soberly that at present there is no sufficient body of SA members actively committed to the project of an unofficial paper to make it viable. We remain ready to assist any body of SA members making real moves in that direction. (b) continue or, rather, step up, the broad political discussions between our two tendencies. (c) examine other possibilities of collaboration: eg, in making sure that the paper that the Welsh Socialist Alliance has decided to produce actually appears, and exploring whether it can be used outside Wales. Best wishes, Martin Thomas for the AWL