Committee for Rev. regroupment (Reply to Nick)
global at uk.pi.net
Fri Sep 13 20:01:41 MDT 1996
This is a reply from Jonathan J. (CRR) to Nick
Thanks for your kind letter and comments on Workers News. Its always nice
cdes from other groups take the time to read these things.
You know that we are not interested in re-regrouping with Socialist Outlook
with the left section of it. You know of course that we left half our
behind when we left Outlook and we don't like to see them suffer. The point
WP is to act as a critical focus for those people who still have a critical
spirit but maintain an organisational fetish for Outlook.
As for the WIL, we don't need to court them, we already have 100% political
agreement with them.
`You know who' has already been discounted. It may be that AWL did a lot of
around C4, but that doesn't constitue the basis for programmatic agreement
it? More serious is the fact that the AWL has abandoned whole chunks of
It used to be that you had a perculiar line on Ireland. But like the
who has to continually change the theory to fit the test results, the
abnormalities of your positions on Ireland, Palestine etc has caused the AWL
abandon the basics of Marxism itself - the theory of imperialism. Any group
claims that the British state is not imperialist is going to be in serious
trouble in a revolutionary upswing.
And as for your Labour Party work, it was maximum in effort but minimum in
politics wasn't it? I seem to remember AWL motivating the position of
for upholding the positions of Labour conference as main plank of the C4
campaign. Hardly radical stuff is it?
And simply campaigning for socialist policies for a Labour government to
implement is a reformist strategy. We know that Labour, byu virtue of its
a bourgeois workers party, cannot implement a socialist `programme' but
ultimately must serve the interests of capital. Our arguement was that such
campaign should not instruct the bourgeoisie, but should take up the
demands being raised in the class struggle - in particular the repeal of the
anti-union laws. This should have been the key demand of the campain since
will be the unleashing of the class struggle that will determine the fate of
Blair, not what Ted Knight says to Tom Rigby in a smoke filled room about
positions of the last Labour conference. But AWL DID NOT EVEN SUPPORT THE
FOR THE REPEAL OF THE ANTI-UNION LAWS because it thought that it would
bureuacrats and MPs. Increadible.
Anyway, I'll put at the end some positions that we developed within Outlook.
The Labour Party
Our analysis of the coming period shows that the key struggles will
emerge in the trade unions. Radicalisations will be helped by the
contradictions which exist both within the labour movement itself, and
amongst the ruling class. Our analysis also leads us to believe that
whilst the struggles will emerge in the trade unions, it is inside the
Labour Party that they will be most sharply felt. The radicalisation of
layers of the working class will wreck Blair's alliances with sections
of the bureaucracy. This gives the left a real chance to mobilise
inside the party. Many of the lefts who opposed Blair's attacks on
Clause IV were simply polarised elements. They are not particularly left
in themselves. Rather, they have stood still whilst the Party has moved
further to the right.
This is not a problem. We can still organise them around a set of
demands. After being attacked by the right, they are more open to left
arguments. This means that our propaganda is important. We must put the
c ase for true socialism inside the Labour Party. This left alliance
cannot be held together by propaganda alone. We need to be involved in a
campaign that can mobilise these elements and get them fighting. This
means a broad campaigning left body that can link up the arguments for
socialism inside the Labour Party with the struggle for workers rights
and against cuts and privatisation, outside of the Party. This is vital
since it is inside the unions that the radicalisations will occur first.
These radicalisations will put pressur e on the Labour Party and,
through the union link, start to have an effect. We believe that it is
will be the pressure exerted by these struggles that will start to push
people inside the Labour Party to the left.
We should reject the view that the LP left is the most
important arena. It is hardly an arena at all at the moment. The
LP left could become vitally important. But that all depends on
the state of the unions and the broader class struggle.
However, we should not use the uncertainty of the Labour
Party campaigns as an excuse to drastically cut back or abandon
our Labour Party work. This work must continue as a medium term
orientation based on a balanced assessment of our labour movement
orientation as a whole
We have quite rightly resisted the attempts to get us
involved in a left-Social Democratic `New Left' publication. We
must also resist the temptations to just sell things like `Campaign
Group News'. All these projects start from the mistaken
assumption that the main struggles will unfold in the Labour
Party and that we should put all our efforts into this. A
struggle could well unfold in the LP, but only if it comes under
pressure form the unions.
1. The Campaign for Socialist Policies for a Labour
Government. This campaign reflects the reformism of the Campaign
Group and the centrism of SO and B*. It has wrongly emphasised
the need for a soft-left `programme' for a Labour government -
i.e. bourgeois politics all of which repeat the illusions of the
post-war settlement. The campaign harks back sentimentally to the
good old days. SO now beleives that there is no difference
between socialism and welfarism.
Being realistic, we can only hope to have a moderate
influence on the campaign. Its main orientation has already been
decided and we would easily be outvoted if we were to raise
anything contentious. However, it is important that we stay
involved, but with no illusions.
We should continue to argue that the campaign should build
itself as a fighting Labour left linked up to the union lefts.
Its demands should be those coming out of the unions and the
broader class struggle. If the campaign can stabilise itself,
then it can still be transformed. We should continue to intervene
on the basis of our perspectives for trades union struggle and
the work that we are doing in these areas. We should increase our
propaganda profile at these events.
2. We are committed to keeping up our Labour Party work in
general. It is vital to stay involved in the MO since important
developments are likely to open up in the next few years. We
should take campaigns into the MO and build local initiatives
around left demands if such opportunities arise. We should
support Young Labour.
WHERE NEXT FOR THE DEFEND CLAUSE FOUR CAMPAIGN? Healy 26.6.95
I am in broad agreement with the position of the
organisation regarding what was the Defend Clause Four campaign
and what is now the Socialist Policies for a Labour Government
campaign. It is particularly important that we have withstood the
pressure coming from SO/WL/NL etc. and a section of our own
organisation to reduce our activity to a minimalist anti-
Blairism. This would have represented a political liquidation to
Social Democracy. However, the overall line is still rather vague
and needs elaborating. The following is a contribution to this
The Key Question Posed
So we are in the Labour Party and we have a campaign on our
hands. How do we react? So far we have had a wholesale commitment
but a more cautious line.
We need to recognise that the nature of the campaign has
changed. Initially the campaign was to defend Clause IV. This was
less problematic although, even at that stage, I think that the
campaign should have been broader. We should have defended Clause
IV in the context of the actual needs of the working class and
the struggles that are likely to be faced over the next few
years. Instead we only defended the wording. The consequence of
this is what we have now, a narrowly Labour Party based campaign
with a moderate Social Democratic programme, rather than a
broader based campaign which actively seeks to link up with
workers in struggle.
So the question needs posing. Where will the struggle come
from? Will it come from inside the Labour Party, or from the
unions? Do we take our Labour Party demands into the unions, or
the union demands into the Labour Party?
Those who prioritise the Labour Party have falsely conflated
two separate questions - 1. where will the important struggles
be? and 2. where will they come from? The struggle inside the
Labour Party IS likely to be a major struggle. But the pressure
will come from the unions. The I** must ask itself the following
question. Should the impetus for the campaign come from the
Labour Party `lefts' or from the unions and broader class
struggles? Who sets the programme? So far it has been the LP
The Blairites have seized the moment to attack Labour's
roots in the working class. The dream is to end the
association of the party with working class organisation and
re-launch it as a party of the pro-European bourgeoisie.
So far Blair has had almost everything in his favour. The
whole of the ruling class is behind his attacks on the class
basis of the Labour Party. The ground has been well prepared
by New Realism. The Tories are split. Europe is the key
political issue. The traditional labourites have been
undermined. The working class is desperate for a Labour
Despite all this, Blair has still had to depend on
traditional labour bureaucrats to get his replacement Clause
IV through. The labour bureaucrats may be weak but they are
certainly not dead. However, they are in a compromised
position caught between a diminished social role and a
potentially more radical working class. A Labour victory will
give sections of the working class the confidence to extend
their political demands. They will see themselves as having
brought Labour to office and will consequently expect
something in return. A more confident working class,
perceiving itself once more as an important political agent,
will start to challenge the deadweight ideologies of
Thatcherism, New Realism and Blairite `modernisation'.
The pressure exerted by the organised working class is
central to the contradictions that will unfold. The political
measures of an anti-working class, pro-European Blair
government will antagonise and, hopefully, radicalise these
sections of the working class. Consequently, the bureaucrats
will be pressured to fight to defend their own power base. We
have already seen this. The anti-Blair vote of Morris and
Bickerstaffe has been forced through by pressure from rank-
and-file members concerned about attacks on them.
The contradictory position that many bureaucrats will
find themselves in - caught between Blair's attacks and
working class demands, will give groups like the I** a better
chance to relate to the working class rank-and-file. With
their projects falling apart and their members angry, we
should be able to exploit the weaknesses of these compromised
But lets not get carried away! We as the I** will not
influence the likes of Bickerstaffe. Nor can we as a far left
organisation form an anti-Blairite front with them. Ex-TM are
completely wrong in this respect. The bureaucrats must
continually be pressured from below by linking up with forces
that exist and carry some weight. For example, if comrades
want Bickerstaffe to really fight Blair, don't support
Bickerstaffe, support the Campaign for a Fighting democratic
UNISON. We don't want another `left' talking shop where the
bureaucrats get let off the hook! The bureaucrats must be
forced to defend their members' interests against Blairism. A
Labour Party campaign should really have this as its focus.
This is how we should intervene into the post-Clause IV
Because of this, it seems logical that we should commit
ourselves to at least a medium term orientation to the Labour
Party. This means at least three to four years, probably more.
We must ensure that we fight for our own politics and not get
bogged down in either routinism or tailending the left-
bureaucracy, or perhaps more appropriately, the `anti-
What Should Revolutionaries be Doing?
We advocate revolutionary politics. The Labour Party on
the other hand, being a bourgeois workers' party, will always
hold a bourgeois programme however left sounding it is. We are
involved in the Labour Party in spite of its programme not
because of it. Our involvement derives from the LP's
structural relationship to the working class.
This might sound like elementary stuff, but it
constitutes a basic dividing line not just on the left but
within our own organisation. This has clearly surfaced over
the Socialist Policies question.
Those around SO, Briefing and the ex-TM wing of our
organisation have the wrong starting point - programme. Hence
the campaign is couched in terms of what kind of programme
does the Labour Party need? But we should never be asking this
question. From our Marxist analysis we know that this is an
illogical question to ask.
Our starting point should be our programme not theirs. Of
course, we don't want to come across as ultra-lefts. So
instead of concentrating on `programme', we should be
concentrating on pressure. We orientate to the Labour Party
not because of its programme but because of its organic
relation to the working class. We champion the struggles of
the working class vanguard and seek to take these into the
Labour Party. IN OTHER WORDS, OUR WORK IN THE LABOUR PARTY IS
NOT ABOUT RAISING LEFT PROGRAMMES. IT IS ABOUT RAISING LEFT
The Labour Party's programme will be left social
democratic at best. We should have no illusions in this. We
are not involved in the LP in order to support this kind of
stuff. We are not there to parrot the majority positions of
the last conference as SO seem to think. We are involved in
order to promote working class interests. These demands must
be FOUGHT for. They come from the EXTERNAL pressure of the
working class. They are not set in programmatic stone. They
are continually evolving.
Labour's programme should therefore not be our starting
point. It immediately limits the scope of what we can do. We
will fight around aspects of the programme on the basis of the
demands of the broader class struggle. If demands are being
exerted upon the LP then we can concretise these demands
around a policy struggle. But we have approached the question
of programme by a very different route. Our starting point is
the class struggle and the union lefts. They make demands ON
the Labour Party. SO and co start from the programme FOR a
Labour government. The difference of approach is stark; class
struggle politics or a left social democratic programme?
The Birmingham Campaign Meeting
At the Birmingham meeting of the campaign for Socialist
Policies our line was not entirely clear. We were not posing
the question in the above terms, but at a more pragmatic
level. We now need to reassess things.
The discussion at the caucus was posed in the wrong
terms. This conceded ground to the SO position. We discussed
which demands needed amending. Once this is done we could
quite easily say that all of them do. The discussion was
therefore limited to the question of trades union rights.
In other words we were accepting the SO framework that
the struggle consists of arguing for a `socialist programme'
for a Labour government rather than reflecting the needs of
the working class. This position starts from the Labour Party
left. We should have started from the perspective of the
trades union left. In other words, how can we take their
struggles into the LP?
We know that this is the correct position. Our leaflet
rightly says that the most important struggles will come, not
>from the LP left, but from the unions. We know that even the
most basic demands that we raise will not be won by Tom
Rigby's propaganda efforts. THEY WILL ONLY BE WON BY PRESSURE
EXERTED BY ACTUAL WORKING CLASS STRUGGLES. This should have
been the basis for the campaign.
Instead the campaign has limited itself to a very
moderate left-social democratic struggle. SO believes that
this is the most `realistic' way to fight Blair. New Left, new
realism. It seems that the anti-Blairites are fighting Blair
in the same way that Blair is fighting the Tories. We must
concede ground and give up on certain principles if we are to
stand a better chance of success. But this is nonsense. The
campaign will be successful if the union struggle can have an
impact on the LP. The role of such a campaign inside the LP is
to facilitate such a struggle.
This means that the campaign should have set itself up as
a fighting Labour left linked up to the union lefts. Its
demands should have been those coming out of the unions. These
demands would have given us the scope to raise our own
politics. Instead we are left with a campaign committed to the
politics of soft-left social democracy.
We have to draw a negative balance sheet. The momentum
for the campaign could well subside. The potential could well
be lost. The Birmingham conference, despite being little more
that the forces of the Campaign Group Supporters Network,
continues to reproduce that traditional British division
between the economic and the political.
However, our overall perspectives for the situation in
the labour movement still hold. The election of a Labour
government will raise workers' expectations and demands. This
pressure will be felt inside the Labour Party and divisions
could open up. The point is, will there be an organised Labour
left to take advantage of this?
Being realistic, we can only hope to have a moderate
influence on the campaign. Its main orientation has already
been decided and we would easily be outvoted if we were to
raise anything contentious. However, it is important that we
stay involved, but with no illusions.
Our main labour movement work should focus on the unions.
Strengthening union lefts such as the CFDU is possibly our
most important task. We should take these experiences into the
Socialist Policies campaign and try to build links.
If the campaign can stabilise itself, then it can still
be transformed. We should continue to intervene on the basis
of our perspectives for trades union struggle.
We should reject the view that the LP left is the most
important arena. It is hardly an arena at all at the moment.
The LP left COULD become vitally important. But that all
depends on the state of the unions and the broader class
We have quite rightly resisted the attempts to get us
involved in a left-Social Democratic `New Left' publication.
We must also resist the temptations to sell things like
`Campaign Group News'. All these projects start from the
mistaken assumption that the main struggles will unfold in the
Labour Party and that we should put all our efforts into this.
A struggle could well unfold in the LP, but only if it comes
under pressure form the unions. This is where we should put
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