Scargill back as Crow flies

Arthur Scargill is to step down as Socialist Labour Party general secretary and once again take up the post of president after the party's triennial congress in six weeks time. Scargill was Socialist Labour's first president from the founding congress in May 1996 until January 1997, when the then general secretary, Patrick Sikorski, suddenly resigned the post in order to go back to full-time working on the London underground and furthering his union career. Within two years he had left the party and was elected RMT deputy general secretary earlier this year. Scargill, trusting nobody else to oversee the party's administration (overburdened as it was by the needs of the ongoing witch hunt against SLP communists at that time), decided that he would have to take on the task himself. He declared himself SLP general secretary - a post to which he was finally elected at the party's 2nd Congress almost a year later and which he has kept ever since. Now, however, with dwindling membership numbers and the disappearance of all democratic opposition, the post is considered less taxing and Scargill believes that it can safely be handed over to his loyal lieutenant, Paul Hardman, at the November 2-3 congress in London's Conway Hall. The triumvirate of Scargill, Hardman and Linda Muir (current vice-president) has been proposed by a hard core of 15 Scargillite branches. After the death of Frank Cave, Harpal Brar, leader of the ultra-Stalinite faction grouped around his journal Lalkar, had his eye on the presidency. But, now that Scargill has claimed that post for himself, Brar is again contesting the vice-presidency against comrade Muir. Scargill is unopposed, of course, but comrade Hardman is to face the challenge of Brar acolyte Zane Carpenter. Carpenter, like Brar himself, has acknowledged the improbability of being able to dent the Scargillite machine by putting their names forward for the national executive in addition (Muir and Hardman deem this an unnecessary precaution). They are standing in the constituency section, along with fellow Stalinites Ranjeet Brar (Harpal's son), Ian Johnson and Dave Roberts. Brar senior and Roberts are on the outgoing executive and might be re-elected despite signs of a rift between them and Scargill over recent months. Judging by the list of nominating branches, of the 20 candidates for the seven vacancies only peacenik Katrina Howse and Mary Millington look certain of success. But the outgoing executive will no doubt point branches in the right direction by issuing its recommended list at congress. Three Brarites are already guaranteed election, since they are unopposed: Ella Rule will again represent the women's section, while another member of the Rule clan, Carlos, is the youth section member. Amanda Rose is one of the seven nominees in the trade union section - all of them determined by the phantom North West, Cheshire and Cumbria Miners Association (which has its 3,000 block votes in reserve in case comrades Hardman and Muir look like being troubled by their Stalinite opponents). But three other well known names will no longer feature on the trade union section of the NEC: Scargill stalwart Nell Myers, who is stepping down; and Joe Marino (Bakers Union) and RMT general secretary Bob Crow, who have both long since drifted away. Comrade Crow has never publicly confirmed that he is no longer a member, but he recently told an email correspondent: "It's not really that I left the Socialist Labour Party - I never put my membership in again for this year." Describing Scargill as one of the "most principled trade unionists in history" and a "personal friend", comrade Crow went on: "But personally, I didn't agree with the tactics at the last general election (which I wouldn't have said at the time) of standing candidates against people which I would say are true people on the left - for instance Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and Dennis Skinner. There were attempts to put candidates up from the Socialist Labour Party against them - to me that was a very sectarian move. Whatever the reason was, that was up to them. But I couldn't support standing candidates against people who are, I would say, our natural friends." Comrade Crow, it will be recalled, publicly supported the Socialist Alliance's Louise Christian in last year's general election, even though she was opposed by Ella Rule for the SLP in Hornsey and Wood Green. The final agenda for congress has just been published, with 11 branches putting forward amendments to previously published motions. It is interesting that there is an attempt to gut one of the few worthwhile motions of its content. Bolton North East demands that workers should receive "a pension equal to two-thirds of their final salary or the national minimum wage - whichever is the higher". Instead Brighton Pavilion - in line with Scargill's thinking - merely wants to hark back to pre-Thatcher days, when pensions were linked to wages, not the retail price index. However, Brighton's own motion - in favour of "good relations with the Workers Party of Korea" - is itself facing amendment from Crawley, which condemns as "irrational" the "cult of personality around the former leader of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung, and its current leader, Kim Jong Il". Holborn and St Pancras wants to put Ariel Sharon, George Bush and Tony Blair on trial for war crimes (who will convene the court is not clear), while South Islington calls for "the suspension of all diplomatic, cultural, military and economic relations with Zionist Israel and its sponsor, the US imperialist state". Surely the SLP should demand that the British imperialist state end all relations with itself too. * Other articles by Simon Harvey