Socialist Platform: An exchange

Message sent to the Socialist Platform drafting group by the CPGB and a reply from the comrades

Commitment to democratic functioning

September 8

Dear comrades

This email is on behalf of the Provisional Central Committee, CPGB. We would be grateful if it could be circulated to platform signatories.

You write that:

“We are concerned that the significant progress we have made so far in obtaining the support of so many people is not fractured or undermined by taking any decisions about the content of the statement without the fullest involvement of all who have supported the statement so far.

“We recognise that the statement is open to revision or amendment, but think that it would be a mistake to make any changes based on the involvement only of those who can attend the meeting on September 14. The statement has brought us together on the basis of this limited agreement and we think the best approach is to begin discussions on the proposed amendments at the meeting ...

“We are therefore proposing the following approach to the meeting ...

“3. That we do not take determinative votes on any of the proposed amendments to the platform statement, but begin discussion on them and take an indicative vote if the proposers wish.

“4. That we reconvene a caucus prior to Left Unity founding conference.”

In our (CPGB) view, this proposal is an error of principle in relation to democratic functioning, which is considerably more serious than any decision one way or another about any of the proposed amendments could be.

To avoid confusion, we should at the outset make clear that:

(a) we are open to persuasion on all the amendments that we have proposed and, even if not persuaded, would accept the result of a vote; and

(b) we are also open to the idea that if, after discussion, there is serious disagreement on any individual point, the decision could be made in relation to that issue to continue discussion of that point at a future meeting, with or without an “indicative vote”;

(c) in our view, to the extent that the September 14 meeting does take decisions, these decisions will be open to reversal, revision or correction at a future meeting.

What we object to is a decision in advance that the meeting of September 14 will be insufficiently ‘representative’ to take decisions on any proposed amendment.

The platform statement was at the outset written by a small, self-selected group. This is entirely right and proper: in any discussion, someone has to take the lead.

However, if the proposal to “begin discussion” only is adopted, the practical result is that the platform remains the property of the small group which drafted it, until such time as this drafting group considers that a meeting called to discuss amendments is sufficiently ‘representative’. This is an anti-democratic method of operation: a form of minority rule.

The effect of the proposal, moreover, would be to make attendance at the September 14 meeting largely pointless. If we are to take decisions only on how to build support for the platform, we could do so perfectly well by electronic circulation. The proposal is therefore likely to reduce attendance at the meeting.

As far as the CPGB is concerned, we indicated at the outset that, though we considered the platform statement a substantial step forward relative to previous LU texts, and greatly better than the Left Party Platform, we had reservations about aspects of the drafting. We did, in fact, submit amendments to the drafting group before the text was publicly issued. These were not accepted and we were not given the courtesy of a reply as to the substantive reasons for objecting to them - only the “procedural” point that all the drafters needed to agree.

We were, however, told that the platform statement would be open to amendment at the meeting on September 14. On this basis we have both submitted amendments and urged comrades and Weekly Worker readers to sign up to support the platform: that is, on the basis that even if there are, in our view, political weaknesses in the platform, the affairs of the platform would be conducted in a democratic way, which meant that it is open to us to argue for weak points to be changed.

To have it proposed a priori, before any discussion, and before even any substantive political objection has been made to our proposed amendments, that any change on September 14 is ruled out, in our view calls into question the commitment of the platform to democratic functioning.

Mike Macnair



Unfair and inaccurate

September 10

The drafting group that has organised the first meeting of the Socialist Platform have received the … email to be circulated from Mike Macnair of the Communist Party of Great Britain-PCC.

The meeting on Saturday will be first opportunity for supporters to meet, exchange ideas and motivate amendments and motions. It will also be the first opportunity to discuss and make decisions on how the Socialist Platform is run.

We reject the accusations of the letter and the tone in which it was written as unfair and inaccurate. Mike and his organisation have committed a basic reading comprehension error. The drafting group has not made any decisions, but issued a proposed agenda and suggested an approach to dealing with the motions and amendments which we have received. It would have been amateur of us not to propose some structure to the day, but it is up to the meeting to decide whether to accept that proposal and we certainly welcome alternatives from all supporters.

Our suggestion is to take a longer view of the discussion to draw in as many views as possible, to make sure that all supporters have ownership of the decisions we make and the statement we put to conference. This will put us in a better position to build the campaign within Left Unity and engage with comrades in our branches. We have always recognised that the Socialist Platform is open to amendments, whether by our own meetings or at Left Unity conference. We urge Mike and his organisation to have the patience to develop this debate and campaign with all Socialist Platform supporters.

We have also received a request to establish an e-list so that Socialist Platform supporters can communicate between meetings. We believe that this would be helpful and suggest it is discussed at the meeting on Saturday.

Another organisation, the International Socialist Network, has also written amendments which have not been submitted but can be read for information by following this link: http://tinyurl.com/isnamendments

Best wishes

Chris Strafford

On behalf of the Socialist Platform drafting group