Thin on the ground

It is very difficult to determine exactly how many candidates the Socialist Labour Party is standing for the May 2 local elections in England. Nominations are taken locally and not centrally collated by the state, so only efficient, well coordinated organisations with good lines of communication are able to confidently determine the total. That certainly rules out the SLP, with its crumbling structure (what remains of it). There is no denying the huge, almost single-handed effort put in by Arthur Scargill to ensure that 114 deposits were paid and 114 election addresses printed by the thousand and delivered to Royal Mail for last year's general election. But he was quite clearly unable to reproduce that effort on this occasion. In any case running a local campaign needs people on the ground - something the SLP does not have. Clearly we are contesting nowhere near 114 wards - whose electorate are a fraction of the size of those of parliamentary constituencies. Take the capital. There are a total of 16 SLP comrades contesting in London. That sounds reasonable, but figures can be deceptive - no fewer than 11 of them are contesting four multi-seat wards in Ealing: the chosen territory of the Indian Workers Association and Harpal Brar of the Stalin Society. All of the Ealing candidates are Stalinites - as indeed are the five contesting the other London seats. In short the SLP is standing candidates in only five of the capital's 32 boroughs. Voters in most of the solidly working class areas will not be able to put their cross next to the name of an SLPer. For example, in Camden, Brent, Lewisham, Lambeth, Greenwich, Hackney, Barking and Dagenham, Tower Hamlets, Hillingdon and Newham, Socialist Labour is nowhere to be seen: quite a contrast to the showing of the Socialist Alliance. However, compared to other cities where I know we have candidates, the SLP appears almost dynamic in London. In Leeds and Manchester, for instance, we have only one candidate apiece. Incredibly Socialist Labour's sole representative in Manchester has chosen to stand in one of the five wards where the SA is also contesting - Mervyn Drage is opposing Karen Reismann in Crumpsal. Simon's lies Scargill's pretence of running a party with "more than 6,000 members" may be wearing a bit thin, but our general secretary is still a well known figure both in Britain and abroad. So when he turned up in Rimini at the 5th Congress of Communist Refoundation earlier this month, he was given a comradely welcome. Mind you, according to what I hear, he did not seem too pleased when PRC general secretary Fausto Bertinotti warned against the Italian working class risking a "defeat" such as the British miners suffered at the hands of Thatcher. Arthur has always insisted the miners won in 1984-85. Apparently he felt equally uncomfortable when comrade Bertinotti lambasted the USSR after Lenin's death: "Stalinism is incompatible with communism," he repeated slowly and deliberately. Scargill remained firmly in his seat while the congress and most other visitors rose to give the PRC leader a standing ovation. But at least Scargill and Brarite Amanda Rose, the other SLP representative, were able to mingle with a few like-minded comrades - such as from the ultra-Stalinite Workers Party of Belgium, with whom he was seen in intense discussions. Even worse, Scargill was placed next to the other fraternal delegates from Britain: from the Socialist Party and - horror upon horrors - the Socialist Alliance. I am told that he refused to even acknowledge the presence of the CPGB's Marcus Ström, let alone talk to him. Everything I write about the SLP in the Weekly Worker is "lies", Scargill told another visitor. The question of Israel/Palestine was one which loomed large at the congress, and Scargill was overheard boasting that he had personally never recognised Israel. Which is very strange, considering that the name 'Socialist Labour Party, Great Britain' appears as one of the many signatories to a statement circulated by Arab delegates calling for a settlement based on the existence of two states.