Barry Biddulph, of Sheffield CMP, adds his thoughts on halfway houses

In his response to Mike Macnair's criticism of his draft programme, Phil Sharpe repeats his point about the importance of the lack of working class political representation now that the Labour Party is no longer a reformist party ('Propaganda for a lost generation', April 26). In his draft programme, Phil writes that the primary issue is to develop an independent workers' party in opposition to the pro-bourgeois politics of the Labour and Conservative parties. The working class does not need a Marxist party - as proclaimed by the Campaign for a Marxist Party - because this would be premature and in effect would be an ultimatum to the working class.

For Phil, a workers' party cannot be revolutionary from the outset. The political character or programme of the workers' party should be left open to spontaneous developments in the class struggle. The form of a Marxist party does not connect with the class in the here and now. Such a form would be at odds with the need to facilitate the revolutionary dynamic of the emerging struggle of the workers to free themselves from capitalist exploitation. Phil is not in favour of a reformist party or old Labour as a stage or a step forward, as advocated by the Socialist Party, but then again he is not in favour of a campaign for a Marxist party either. He might be, though, if empirical events falsify his prognosis of a fundamental requirement to help the workers form their own unspecified political voice.

Phil strongly objects to any suggestion he is in favour of diluting the revolutionary programme or that his campaign for a workers' party without the open advocacy of a Marxist programme shares the reformism of the Socialist Party leadership or their spiritual inspiration, Keir Hardie - who advocated, at the 1900 conference of the Labour Representation Committee, that the party of labour should not have a socialist programme or character, but simply organisational independence or an 'independent' political voice compared with other bourgeois parties. He stands for the intensification of the class struggle to enable revolutionaries to gain support for a revolutionary programme in the future. Phil sees it as revolutionary tactics, but they are tactics at odds with the CMP's founding principles.

The political problem is that there is an incoherence or abstention when it comes to the choice of a reformist workers' party or revolutionary Marxist party. Phil sits on the fence. On the one side, the class is not ready for a Marxist party and programme; on the other side, a reformist programme and party is not the answer either. However, he leans towards the reformist side because of his agreement with the Socialist Party that an unspecified political voice for some kind of organisational 'independence' for workers would be a step forward.

Despite Phil's protestations, this does appear to be implicit support for a reformist party in the short term or a party and programme which falls short of Marxism.