adam at pmel.com
Mon May 13 07:35:07 MDT 1996
I think I agree with Walter in his tactical assessment, although
I believe the ISO takes a more positive view ( they did last time
I heard them speak ).
But perhaps the move towards a Labor Party is not precisely the same thing as
the Labor Party Advocates ? I can well imagine a meeting called by LPA
attracting a significant number of people who don't have a fixed position
on reform or revolution but who do see things in class terms.
Revolutionaries would have to find a way to relate to these people.
I think it would have to start along the lines of "yes, we need a workers
party. And this is the sort of party we need . . . ". I think it very likely
that it would not be possible to openly advocate a party based on class
struggle from inside the formal structures, but as Walter says it is
a tactical call.
Some odds and ends of comment :
1. During the foundation of the Labour Party in Britain, the BSP ( a 2nd
international Marxist Party ) basically presented an ultimatum to the
founding congress that it should be a Marxist Party and walked out when
they lost. In retrospect, this was a mistake [ which was entirely
consistent with their abstract propagandist politics ]. They should have
conducted a more serious argument. Also, the early Labour Party did not break
>from the Liberals for quite a while, even electorally. They got their first
significant representation in parliament by means of a Lib - Lab pact.
You can't make a direct link between the anti mass action politics of the
people who want to set up a LP and its potential appeal to large minorities
of the working class.
2. Scargill's SLP voted down a motion from the floor opposing all immigration
controls for essentially electoral reasons ( the vote went roughly 50 - 50 ).
3. FYI, the SLP has about 1,200 members, according to Scargill at its
conference ( Not bad ? Not marvellous either ? ). The media took the piss
out of them but at least there was some discussion along the lines of
"what's happened to the hard left ?".
Jon's description of his union local meeting rings a few bells. I believe
the supporters of the SLP in the RMT ( the UK rail union ) are basically
hard left people in official union positions. They don't have much on the
ground - they're seen as part and parcel of union officialdom by most
rank + file workers, who may well more in formal terms to the right of the
What is crucial when it comes down to it is a layer of politicised militants
in each local, who can carry political arguments and pull action independent
of the officials when neccessary. A revolutionary can identify such people
by putting an argument for a workers party - but what he or she then talks
about with them won't be about elections 99% of the time, or even workplace
issues, but general politics : crime, immigration, race, the nature of the
state, how to defend ( or achieve ) a welfare state . . . This stuff is the
crucial thing, and isn't really affected one way or the other by whether you
go to LPA meetings once a month or not.
PS. The lesson of the British General Strike in 1926 ( I talk about this
because I went to a big meeting on this subject in Manchester on May 1 )
is that the left trade union officials, even the most left wing trade
union officials, do not act independently of the right wing officials.
The right wingers called the general strike off - the left wingers said
nothing, even though more workers were on strike the day after they
called it off than at any time previously. Happens all the time ( Trotsky
predicted it in 1925 ! ).
The tragedy was that the CP's slogan, under the influence of the rapidly
Stalinising Commintern, was "all power to the TUC General Council" ie
precisely the people who were to sell it out.
Jon is right to engage with workers where they're at. But is he pandering
to the left wing bureaucrats ? A dilemma at least 100 years old . . .
Adam ( the deep lurker ).
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