The Struggle for Socialism Today
Organisation: Socialist Party
Author:Peter Hadden
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Subjects: Socialist Workers Party

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

18th June 2018

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive. It is available online in other places including the SP itself but this is a useful format to have the document in.

This is a fascinating document issued by the Socialist Party which includes an exchange between it and the Socialist Workers Party on the issue of electoral cooperation. As the document makes clear, this was at the instigation of the SWP in December 1998.

The introduction notes that:

The Socialist Party welcomes the opportunity to debate publicly the differences between the Socialist Workers Party and us. This is not a matter of sterile point scoring or dogmatic hair splitting. Our objective is first of all to clarify the points of difference and, by doing so, hopefully to resolve them. The existence of a number of organisations on the left complicates the task of building a Marxist party. Where differences are not fundamental, the needs of the class struggle must override secondary and sometimes petty divisions that may have built up through years of separate existence.

And although somewhat sceptical about the proposals it concludes:

Even if we do not end with agreement, the exercise will not have been wasted. A public setting out of differences in method and in ideas will be of benefit to our own members and to activists on the left generally. We have to justify to working class people, who instinctively seek the maximum unity of organisation, why there exists more than one organisation which lays claim to the Marxist tradition. If there is no basis for fusion we have to be able to demonstrate that these differences are both serious and irreconcilable, and that a fusion would merely blunt the revolutionary instrument, not strengthen it.

The document outlines its analysis of the SWP and its activities from the perspective of the SP across a range of issues including the development of the SWP, its orientation in regard to Northern Ireland and so on. One of the most interesting aspects is an Appendix which contains correspondence between the SWP and the SP.

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  • By: Barnes Mon, 18 Jun 2018 20:53:40

    “We have to justify to working class people, who instinctively seek the maximum unity of organisation,”

    They do? Are they confusing we believe they should with they do.

    Why not:
    We have to justify to working class people, who instinctively seek the maximum diversity of organisations,

    Interesting claims about what an entire cohort of society wants or should want.

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 18 Jun 2018 21:24:48

    In reply to Barnes.

    I’m not a Leninist so I’m not well placed to
    judge but as a libertarian Marxist I’m always dubious about generalizations! 🙂

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: Barnes Mon, 18 Jun 2018 21:43:20

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    As a general position

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  • By: Alibaba Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:33:15

    Much is made of the role of the SP in the trade unions. According to this document, ‘The Socialist Party has always worked with others on the left in the unions … We do so in order to present the strongest possible challenge to the right.’ One of the two unions that received special mention was the CPSU. For the record, this is how SP conducted themselves in the past.

    In 1991 a few CPSU branch committee members spoke against a committee recommendation at a general membership meeting. Some had reservations about rotten concessions to management being proposed. As the speakers were known to be left leaning, the trade union tops came out with guns shooting. They demanded an apology from the activists and a commitment never to breach ‘collective responsibility’.

    This means the power of the majority can be used to foist conformity on others, to banish all criticisms and to deny the right to dissent. It was contrived to conceal arguments in an open debate prior to a ballot and ensure that activists are silenced in front of the very members who elected them and who expected their reps to keep them informed on all issues. Indisputably, it was an attack on the left and resisting it was of vital importance.

    One of the speakers involved was a SP member who was also on the CPSU Executive Committee. A meeting was convened of the targeted activists and unexpectedly a SP leader came along. He argued for an apology in order to avoid disciplinary action and, more to the point, to ensure that SP kept its member on the Executive Committee. The SP member dutifully apologised and kept his role.

    Two committee members declined to apologise. With headquarters connivance, they were dismissed from the branch committee and debarred from holding elected office within the union for a period of two years. One of them, a member of the Irish Workers Group, challenged this and was put through a tribunal of inquiry led by the CPSU General Secretary. Despite the fact it endorsed her dismissal, she appealed the outcome at the next ADC. She won overwhelmingly and was instantly re-installed as a committee member.

    It would seem the SP piggybacked on this victory when the same rights were won for CPSU Executive Committee members in later years. Isn’t it interesting that all this goes without mention in this publication? For me, it is a small but nonetheless significant detail, showing SP’s lack of political will to conduct some struggles in a principled way. Its fixation with winning electoral support and retaining key positions trumps all. Too true, alas.

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