Keeping left out
Cameron Richards reports from the launch of John Marek's new party in Wrexham
About 30 people attended the founding conference of John Marek’s new party in Wrexham, north Wales, on Saturday November 8. Most of the participants came from the Wrexham area, with the rest coming from the ranks of Cymru Goch, a tiny left nationalist grouping.
As reported in the last issue of the Weekly Worker, the conference was arranged rather secretively - there was no pre-conference publicity, the media were not invited and other socialists were not allowed in, even to observe. When I arrived at the conference door, I was promptly told by several worried-looking people, including Marek himself, that my membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain precluded me from attending. Neither the Socialist Workers Party nor the Socialist Party showed up, despite their earlier interest.
Of course when it was pointed out to the doorkeepers that there were in fact a number of members of another political group in the meeting - Cymru Goch - they claimed that these people had resigned some time ago and that they were now simply members of the John Marek Independent Party. But Marek could not keep up this pretence for long. He admitted to me (in a private conversation, of course) that he was well aware of Cymru Goch’s continued existence, but stated that at least CG had some “political honour”.
It appears from reports of the conference that the name of the party has now changed from the JMIP to ‘Forward Wales’. Whilst Cymru Goch made some effort to persuade others to adopt the name ‘Socialist Wales’, Marek told the participants that this would put off potential support and that the dreaded ‘s’ word could not be countenanced under any circumstances. Two thirds of the conference agreed with him.
Thus the much heralded talk of John Marek doing a ‘Tommy Sheridan’ and creating a Welsh Socialist Party has come to nothing. The right-reformist founding statement, ‘For a democratic and socialist Wales’ (see Weekly Worker November 6), was passed without any amendments of substance, but even this document appears to be for internal consumption only.
It therefore seems that Marek has now wasted any potential that existed to cohere the left in Wales towards a Scottish Socialist Party-type organisation (the SSP, despite its nationalist orientation, owed much of its success to its ability to group together most of the existing left groups, which operate within it as open platforms). Instead, it is now likely that outside of Marek’s base in Wrexham, his new party will be stillborn, struggling to create an identity different from that of Labour or the Liberal Democrats.
Neither will Forward Wales attempt to outflank Plaid Cymru by adopting the slogan of an ‘independent socialist Wales’, content instead merely to half-heartedly call for further devolved powers, “should any further devolution arrangements be enacted” (‘For a democratic and socialist Wales’). Even a neutral observer would be at a loss to understand the strategic thought behind this new formation.
Yet for partisans of internationalist socialism the mess that CG has now got itself into over Forward Wales is certainly a sight for sore eyes. True, despite an unholy row with Marek supporters after the Weekly Worker revealed Cymru Goch’s clearly expressed disdain for the new formation’s leader (September 11), it has not only managed to stay on board, but successfully excluded the “Brit left”. Nevertheless, one wonders what CG has gained from its ‘deep entryist’ tactics.
Not so long ago, in May 2002, when CG announced that it would not be re-affiliating to the Welsh Socialist Alliance, its resignation document stated that the WSA had “failed to understand the need for an independent socialist Wales. Any alliance has to involve compromises and we compromised on this issue, but we are unable to compromise our socialist republicanism indefinitely” (Weekly Worker May 31 2002).
But what has CG achieved within this context? It has signed up to a localist formation that is openly unionist - and completely renounced its open existence into the bargain. At no stage during the conference did CG put up ant sort of fight for its once cherished aim of an independent socialist republic.
Apparently, one of the leaders of CG stated towards the end that the conference was an historic occasion. Maybe so, but not in the sense the comrade meant. For if the inept Marek has managed to signal the end for Cymru Goch, then he will have, by default, managed to have performed at least one small service for the genuine left in Wales.