Scargill moves against Brar

Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time. A bureaucratic manoeuvre to swat aside the challenge to Arthur Scargill's unassailable authority as president and dictator of the Socialist Labour Party was surely inevitable after the minor defeats inflicted upon him by the ultra-Stalinites at last November's congress. And now it has come. Scargill has sent an HQ letter to every member of the SLP's London region. Our Great Leader has condemned regional president Harpal Brar, leader of the ultra-Stalinite faction, and his regional committee for circulating comrade Brar's own paper on education to the 70 or so London members. Further, the letter - jointly signed by Scargill, general secretary Paul Hardman and vice-president Linda Muir - instructs all members of the party "not to circulate or distribute in any way copies of the January-February issue of the youth magazine Spark, which reflects a policy in total opposition to the policy of the party". This issue had been sent in January to all London members, along with Brar's education paper. Spark is edited by Joti Brar, daughter of the said Harpal, and from its inception has contained an unremitting diet of Stalinite dogma. However, up to now Scargill has not objected to what passes as the official journal of the SLP's youth section, which, like the women's section, has been in the hands of the ultra-Stalinites for several years. Signs that all was not well in Scargill's party came when comrades tried to log on to the SLP's website at the beginning of this year. Visitors have been greeted by a single, all-black page which carries nothing but a curt, three-sentence announcement: "Socialist-Labour-Party is currently in the process of setting this site up. We shall have a full service within a matter of weeks. So please be patient, and keep checking back!" No doubt many will have thought nothing more of it. However, others must have wondered why it is necessary to close down completely the old website pending its replacement or upgrading. The answer lies in the fact that www.socialist-labour-party.org.uk had previously been run by the Brarites, who had regularly updated the pages for Spark and Women for Socialism, the women's section journal, while everything else had been neglected for over a year (presumably because Scargill had stopped forwarding them anything to post). I suspect that general secretary Hardman has now simply changed the password, thus denying the Brarites access to editing the site. Matters came to a head in November 2002 when Scargill suffered his first ever defeat on the floor of congress. A motion on North Korea, which included a paragraph in favour of "good relations with the Workers' Party of Korea", was carried, despite Scargill's strongly expressed support for an amendment deleting this paragraph. A motion on housing was also passed against his express wishes. Although Scargillites Hardman and Muir saw off challenges from the Stalinite camp for the national officers' posts, Scargill could not prevent the election to the executive of a large number of Brar supporters and allies. Indeed, if they all turned up and voted consistently the same way, they would have a narrow majority on the NEC. Clearly that did not happen at the January 18 meeting of the executive, which "expressed deep concern that the January-February issue of ... Spark reflected a policy which supported multilateral nuclear disarmament, despite the fact that the Socialist Labour Party from its inception has been in support of unilateral nuclear disarmament and is affiliated to CND" (letter to London members, February 23). Try as I might, I cannot find any direct reference to either unilateral or multilateral disarmament in issue 13 of Spark, dated January 2003 (not January-February), the issue sent to all London members. The only mention of nuclear weapons I spotted is contained in the report of the SLP congress, which quotes from the unanimously agreed resolution: "Congress resolves to campaign vigorously not only for the elimination of all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, but for Britain's withdrawal from Nato and any and all involvement in attacks upon independent nations" (my emphasis). Is this SLP policy not a call for multilateral disarmament - which Scargill claims is only "supported by the US administration, the right wing of the Labour Party, the Tory Party and those organisations/individuals who over many years have supported a pro-nuclear policy" (letter to London members, February 23)? Scargill is not only alleging that the Stalinites are in "clear breach of the party's constitution" by circulating this issue of Spark, but implies that they are lining up with the Tories and the United States! His condemnation of London for distributing the education paper is equally ridiculous. The letter from the party's national officers declares: "The education document circulated to you was written by Harpal Brar. It was not accepted by the national executive committee and at the NEC 19.1.02 in minute 9(a) Harpal himself stated that his paper was intended for internal discussion only. "The NEC agreed - with that undertaking - to circulate comrade Brar's paper to regional secretaries. It was not intended to be a 'useful document for school/university students, teachers and others', as suggested in the circular sent on behalf of the London regional committee by [regional secretary] Carlos Rule." So, in the same breath as admitting that the NEC agreed to the circulation of Brar's paper for internal discussion, Scargill condemns London for carrying this out and declares the regional committee to be acting unconstitutionally. Apparently it is the mere suggestion that the document might be read outside the party's ranks that is not permissible. Nowhere, by the way, does Scargill actually lay down his objections to the contents of Brar's paper. I cannot help but agree that much of Brar's study in what is for him a specialist field is indeed "useful". Nor is it obvious that it conflicts in any way with official SLP policy. Clearly the fact that it was distributed at all after the NEC "adopted an education paper written by Arthur Scargill" is taken by the Great Leader as a personal affront (ibid). So the website is closed down, the party's youth magazine is banned and we are surely about to see disciplinary action against comrade Brar and his followers. It seems that all this is intended to flush out the ultra-Stalinites who actually accounted for a good half of the 130 or so comrades who bothered to attend the 2002 congress. Scargill has driven out or repelled more than a thousand members. First hundreds of genuine communists and democrats of every shade departed or were driven out. Next for the chop were former courtiers Patrick Sikorski and Brian Heron and their Fourth International Supporters Caucus. They were replaced by Roy Bull and his Economic and Philosophic Science Review faction and a new exodus began, which included trade union leaders such as Bob Crow and Mick Rix. The Bullites quickly fell foul of the Great Leader and the Brarites saw their opportunity. The Brarites are just about the only remaining members of the party with any energy. Soon no one will remain except Scargill himself ... and it is only a matter of time before he falls out with himself and finds peace in oblivion.