[Marxism] Socialist Resistance: The way forward for the unity process
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 7 07:27:51 MST 2014
Socialist Resistance: The way forward for the unity process
Divisions on the far left have long been damaging for the wider
struggle. The current divisions in anti-cuts campaigning (for example)
directly reflect the divisions in the far left. The SWP has Unite the
Resistance (which actually does precisely the opposite) and the
Socialist Party has its Shop Stewards Network. The Peoples Assembly is
an attempt to unite across these divides, which is hugely important, but
the old divisions still weaken the movement.
The same divisions have long hampered the emergence of the kind of broad
party of the left that has been both necessary and possible since the
emergence of New labour. Again, Left Unity is also enormously important,
and is starting to address this, but the divisions are still damaging.
TUSC is constrained by the sectarianism of the SP to remaining a
non-agression pact between the SP and SWP, rather than the sort of new
left party that is needed. The decision of the SP to back the dire
nationalism of the CPB and No2EU can only lead down a blind alley.
Tackling such divisions, moreover, is even more urgent given the depth
of the crisis, the way it is being exploited by the government and the
employers, and the chronic weakness of the trade union response. If the
far left is to play a significant role in turning this around it has to
start to tackle its own divisions.
It is for all these reasons that we have been strongly in favour of
revolutionary regroupment since the current possibilities for this
opened up last year with the crisis of the SWP and the emergence of the
ACI. We remain fully committed to this and we are ready to dissolve our
organisation into a viable regroupment project if it can be got together.
The far left today is weaker than for many years and this has been
compounded by the unfolding crisis of the SWP following its failure to
support women members struggling against sexual harassment and rape. The
important thing, however, is to learn the lessons from this and ensure
that a new and dynamic organisation comes out of it. The emergence of
both the ISN and the ACI, and much more recently the RS21, creates an
opportunity to rescue something very significant from the otherwise
completely negative implosion of the largest far left organisation.
Any regrouped organisation must be unambiguously revolutionary in
character. But it must also embrace a much higher level of heterogeneity
and pluralism – reaching across the various traditions of the far left
for example – than the existing previously major far left organisations.
A new organisation would need to develop an internal culture where
differences could be discussed without rancour in a democratic
framework. It must be an organisation where sharp debates become a point
of development and not of division.
In our view the prevalent British far left model of rigidly top down
organisations operating a form of ‘democratic centralism’ drawn from
Stalinist traditions, excluding real democracy or engagement by the
members, is neither effective nor desirable in today’s conditions – if
indeed it was ever effective or desirable.
SR has long ceased to use the term ‘democratic centralism’. Instead we
say revolutionary democracy. This is not because we reject the
collective formulation of policy and collective implementation - maximum
participation in the decision-making processes and maximum unity in
action. Far from it. It is because we reject the undemocratic practices
which have long been associated with ‘democratic centralism’ and
practiced in its name.
For example we think that the requirement that members must advocate in
public something that they disagree with internally is not only wrong in
current circumstances but perverse. Whilst members are expected to carry
out the decisions of the organisation, they are not expected to advocate
policies with which they disagree. However, when minority views are
expressed in public they should be presented as such.
Another example of revolutionary democracy is minority representation on
leadership bodies. In our view, a revolutionary organisation cannot be
democratic unless all properly established minority views are
proportionately represented on all the leadership bodies.
The way we see internal democracy also has an effect on the way we work
in organisations like LU. Block voting in line with the party mandate
deprives members of independence when working in such an organisation.
We don’t agree with this way of functioning in a broad left wing
organisation that we are trying to develop as a political party, and we
don’t practice it. One of the things which triggered the wider
discussion of developing this type of organisation was Luke Cooper and
Simon Hardy’s book ‘Beyond Capitalism?’ which advocated a new kind of
more democratic and heterogeneous model for the far left. We supported
this idea at that time and we support it now.
We have to be clear, however. We cannot resolve all the divisions of the
far left in a single regroupment – that is impossible. What we can do,
if we go about it the right way, is create a significant new grouping,
based on a new conception of revolutionary organisation, which could
chart a new course and hopefully lead to further regroupments in the
future. This means regrouping, at this stage, those who agree with this
approach – SR, ISN, ACI and we would hope, the newly launched RS21.
It is for these reasons that we continue to be concerned about the
inclusion of Workers Power in this process. They are the embodiment of
most of the dogmatic conceptions we are trying to get away from and they
show no signs that this is likely to change. They have been demanding
the implementation of the full revolutionary programme at every possible
opportunity for the last 30 years. They defend what we see as an
outdated conception on internal democracy and this has resulted in
several key splits and expulsions from their ranks in recent years,
including the group that became Permanent Revolution and the group that
led the ACI. They have had a sectarian practice in relation to the
development of broader forms of organisations, most notably in walking
out of the ACI when the majority refused to adopt their sectarian and
narrow conceptions of organisation. Their sole experience of a
regroupment was nearly 40 years ago with the Matgamna organisation and
they have learnt nothing from that in the period since.
Our fear is that if WP is included in this process we will find it very
difficult to find the balance between internal discussion and external
work which will be so important. We think that there is an opportunity
in the relatively short term of creating an organisation that can be
grounded in a common conception of revolutionary politics and democracy
and have a common approach to the need for building Left Unity as a
successful broad party of the left. We believe that RS21 will be a
crucial part of this process and would seek to involve them in the
discussions and processes to bring about the first stage of such a
Discussions would have to continue after a new revolutionary
organisation emerges, of course, but we don’t want to institutionalise
an endless debate on the minutiae of programme.
This brings us to the matter of what discussions we need to have in
advance of a regroupment taking place? We do need a process of
discussion and debate, and we have always made our priorities clear on
this: we want to deepen the discussion we have been having on feminism,
and we are keen to discuss ecosocialism and internationalism. In fact,
it is important to move on from the more general discussion to some more
But there is an urgency in this and a need for boldness. When
opportunities such as this arise they do not last forever. Given the
difficult terrain we will be fighting on over the next period – the
decline of the far left in the wake of the SWP crisis, the pressure
among some sections of the left and trade unions not to rock the boat in
the forlorn hope of a Labour government coming to the rescue in 2015,
the deepening economic and ecological crisis and its effect on the
working class in Britain, Europe and globally – there is a danger of the
small forces that need to be assembled in such a new revolutionary
nucleus dissipating and dropping out into inactivity if the process does
The need for urgency is not about settling everything in advance, but of
creating a culture under which discussions could continue on a positive
basis in the early years of the new organisation. Such a new
organisation would also act as a pole of attraction for many currently
non-aligned militants and through strength in numbers and political
conviction could start to put pressure on the sectarian practices of the
We would argue, though we don’t make it a precondition, that the most
fruitful way for the regroupment process to proceed would be on the
basis of the original participants: SR, the ACI, the ISN together with
RS21 and also others who have left the SWP but are not currently in the
ISN or RS21.
RS21 has come into this process but only as an observer organisation. We
think that these comrades have a tremendous amount to contribute to
rebuilding the far left and that we should strongly urge them to come
fully into the regroupment initiative.
In terms of practical proposals:
That we develop joint work in as many areas as possible including
1) Left Unity where we are all already working, so this is of greatest
2) Work in the Peoples Assembly.
3) We should continue to organise joint events. Excellent examples of
this are the forum on feminism with Cinzia Arruzza in Manchester, the
up-coming forum on Syria in London, and the work on the woman’s magazine.
4) Organise discussions around political issues as appropriate. We would
like to see discussions on feminism and ecosocialism in particular, but
we are happy to discuss any of the issues proposed by Workers Power,
though we don’t want to be too proscriptive because such discussions are
often thrown up be events.
5) We should encourage maximum collaboration and joint work amongst our
comrades at local level.
6) We are in favour of continuing the current arrangements for these
discussions and for publishing Exchange up until the conference.
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