The Struggle for Socialism
A reply to the politics of the
Socialist Workers Party
The non-payment campaign
That tactical considerations are a closed book to your
organisation is clear from your approach to other struggles. Here are
just two examples. During the 1980s, Militant, the forerunner of the
Socialist Party, organised and led the battle to defeat Thatcher’s
poll tax in Britain. We initiated the mass non-payment campaign which
ultimately involved 14 million people and which not only shipwrecked the
poll tax, but was a key factor in forcing Thatcher to resign.
Your sister party, the British SWP, argued against
the non-payment tactic saying it would not succeed. Of the tactic which
was to lead the biggest civil disobedience campaign in British history,
the SWP had this to say: "The experience in Scotland has shown
non-payment is a vulnerable form of resistance leaving it to the resolve
of individuals to stand up against the law. With council officers being
given draconian power to collect the tax, non-payment will be impossible
anyway…" (Socialist Worker, 17 December 1988). You
advocated instead that union members in local government should refuse
to collect the tax and that this would be the sole form of resistance.
In line with this, SWP members in Scotland not only
opposed non-payment; they paid the tax themselves when it was first
introduced. So when the real struggle began they found themselves on the
wrong side of the non-payment battle line. By contrast, we supported the
idea of non-collection, but only in conjunction with mass non-payment,
non-collection, but only in conjunction with mass non-payment.
Non-collection on its own would not have succeeded and would most likely
have led to victimisation and sackings. Our argument that mass
non-payment was the key was confirmed by what happened. Had the movement
followed the "advice" of the SWP, the poll tax would probably
still be in place today.
The SWP intervention in the current campaign to
oppose the imposition of fees on students in Britain has been another
catalogue of errors. We have launched the idea of a non-payment pledge
to try to popularise and build support for future mass non-payment of
fees. The SWP initially opposed the non-payment tactic.
Instead, your members tried to organise protests in
the colleges but with no clear programme and absolutely no strategy to
build any effective campaign. Last autumn, you organised a demonstration
and occupation in Queen’s University, Belfast. We applaud the
initiative, especially given the inertia of the Students’ Union. But
the way you conducted the campaign was ill thought out to the point that
it could have damaged rather than helped the fight against fees.
There was no serious attempt to test the mood of the
mass of students, let alone prepare and build support for the idea of
occupation. The result was that those involved were left quite isolated
to face the retribution of the university authorities. Unfortunately,
this has resulted in the victimisation of one student who was suspended
for a term.
At the beginning of the occupation you demanded a
meeting with the Vice-Chancellor and said that students should stay put
until he agreed to this — only to find out that he was in China at the
time! Instead of putting the onus on student action to defeat fees your
demand was that the college should refuse to collect them! This
caricature of your position in the poll tax fight is completely contrary
to the method of Marxism. Marxists generally try to broaden struggles,
advocating tactics that will increase mass involvement. Your central
demand on the fees was effectively that the authorities should solve the
problem for us!
Over a period, the idea of non-payment gained support
among the best activists in the anti-fees campaign in Queen’s. Faced
with this your members did a partial somersault — as you did with the
poll tax. They went along with non-payment, but instead of a serious
mass campaign they argued for a non-payment stunt whereby a few students
should refuse to pay for a period — and then would pay.
Again, this is a characteristic of the SWP: to reduce
everything to the politics of publicity stunts. It is the mark of an
organisation that skirts around, and ultimately away from, serious
struggle. There is a place for stunts — to build awareness — but as
part of a real campaign, not as a substitute for one.
We now understand that you have gone further. Having
lost the argument, you have decided to pull out of the United for Free
Education Campaign which you established. Worse, you have attempted to
wreck this campaign which you now view as a rival to your presence on
the campus. SWP meetings in Queen’s have been deliberately organised
to clash with UFE meetings. Sectarianism of this character only repels
the best people, while at the same time it confirms your inability to
work in any campaign that you do not control.
All of this is well known among activists on the
left. These methods discredit the SWP and reinforce its already
pronounced sectarian reputation. Worse still, we can all be made to pay
a price as workers who became aware of these things inevitably become
suspicious that this is the way all socialists behave. On many occasions
we have had to emphasise that we are not the SWP — and do not act the
way your party acts — before we have been able to get a sympathetic
ear among workers who have been exposed to your methods.
We need to discuss all these questions before we can
take seriously your appeals for left unity in future elections. We also
want to examine and discuss your approach to electoral work. Your party
has recently done a U-turn on this question. In the past, you decried us
as "electoralist" because we stood in elections. Bourgeois
parliaments were a "dung hill" which would corrupt all those
who entered them. So ran your old line of argument.
Now, you support the idea of standing for parliament
and, presumably, would take your seats if elected. A key factor in your
turn on elections was the huge vote for Joe Higgins in the Dublin West
by-election in 1996 and our subsequent victory in winning a Dail seat in
that constituency. The 1996 vote caught you completely by surprise and
led to a hasty abandonment of your past position. Your Political
Committee responded by presenting a document on electoral work to your
1996 conference. This stood your past arguments on their head and argued
for a "highly tactical approach to running a small number of
candidates in the near future."
As with your sudden shift on taking trade union
positions, you adopted a new policy but largely on the basis of an old
analysis. Everyone who runs for trade union positions is a budding
bureaucrat — except the SWP. Likewise, everyone who runs for
parliament, including Joe Higgins, will descend into the swamp of
bourgeois politics — except the SWP!
Our result in Dublin West and the role of Joe Higgins
in the Dail have answered your arguments and have shown the difference
between a revolutionary organisation capable of building a real base
among the working class and a sectarian propaganda group which refuses
to involve itself in struggle to the degree that is necessary to sink
In order to deflect from this and avoid the questions
which it will inevitably raise in the minds of the best of your members,
you resort, mantra-like, to the charge of "electoralism." Your
1996 document, under a heading "Electoralism versus revolutionary
politics," sets out the "defects" of "electoralism."
"Despite sometimes verbal nods in the direction of revolutionary
socialism, there is a tendency to spread illusions in what parliament
can achieve. Here, the Higgins campaign was a case in point. The
election was called the ‘best chance’ to beat the water charges.
After promising for months that a strategy of disrupting the courts
would be adopted after ‘all legal avenues failed’ mass action was
deemed to have a secondary role to getting someone elected to the Dail."
You also say that with "electoralism"
"sometimes there is talk of the possibility of combining extra
parliamentary and parliamentary agitation. But, in reality preparing for
elections takes precedent over everything else."
How does your overhaste to accuse us of abandoning
the mass struggle for a parliamentary road stand against the reality of
what actually happened? The fact of the by-election coming at a critical
point in the water charges campaign was an opportunity not to be missed.
Within the campaign there were a group of anarchists who used similar
arguments to the above and opposed us standing. These arguments were
dismissed with the contempt they deserved by the campaign activists. The
vote in Dublin West was a major blow to the establishment and greatly
assisted the non-payment campaign.
Only a group which was not involved in the struggle
could argue as you do. The activists did not counterpose the mass
agitation to the election opportunity. They saw them, as we did, as
complimentary. The election was a brilliant example of the combination
of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary methods.
The extra-parliamentary struggle — combined with
other mass campaigning work we had carried out in Dublin West over a
period of years — was the preparation for the election. In turn, the
election strengthened the extra-parliamentary campaign in the form of
non-payment, resistance in the courts, action to physically resist
cut-offs. Your warning of our imminent abandonment of struggle to
embrace "electoralism," issued from the distant sidelines of
the anti-water charges campaign, has been answered by events.
Undeterred, you have continued to monotonously repeat
the charge ever since. In your 1997 Conference document you go even
further. "The newly named Socialist Party, formerly Militant Labour,
have virtually reduced to (?) their whole perspective to getting Joe
Higgins elected to the Dail. It is a disastrous approach that will
rebound on them as the pull of electoralism removed the last pretences
to revolutionary socialism."
Your recent letter to us, although in the name of an
electoral pact, continues with the same method — innuendo and
unsubstantiated accusation. Our approach, you say, "can lead to a
danger of focusing workers struggles on the need to win support in
parliament rather than to relying on their own strength to establish
victory. In the long term your ambiguity on the question of parliament
can prove disastrous."
What ambiguity? The charge is made entirely without
substantiation. No class has ever given up its position of power and its
ownership of wealth without a struggle. The capitalists would not accept
decisive change which challenged their rule through parliament. They
would resort to extra-parliamentary means. In such a situation the
present state would not be neutral. Its tops are tied by a thousand
strings to the capitalists. In order for the working class to defend
existing gains and to continue along the road to the socialist
transformation which they most likely would have attempted to pursue
through parliament, they would find it necessary to use other means.
In a revolutionary situation the working class will
develop its own alternative organs of power. For a period these can
co-exist with the old state and parliamentary institutions. Such a
period of dual power is an either /or situation: either the working
class will take powerfully or the ruling class will continue to rule,
most likely by military, not parliamentary means.
The Russian Revolution
This is the kernel, but it is far from all that needs
to be said on the complex process of revolution and counter-revolution.
To proclaim what is necessary is not the same as to lead the working
class through this process to that point. Those who are unable to
understand how combativity and consciousness develop, and how to adjust
their programme and tactics accordingly, will play no leadership role.
Your comments on the subject display a total ignorance of these matters.
Take your statement that "(i)n a revolutionary
situation every reactionary element will rally around the cry to defend
the ‘institutions of parliamentary democracy.’" (11 January
letter). This displays a simplified and idealistic view of revolution
which befits an organisation that tends to divide all struggles into us
— the SWP leading the working class — and them — everyone else! It
misses out on the complex dialectic of revolution and
In 1917 in Russia, the choice was not between the
soviets on one side and the Provisional Government or a future
Constituent Assembly on the other. The real choice was between the
Soviets and a military regime. In August 1917, the Bolsheviks blocked
with the Mensheviks and other parties to resist the attempted coup by
General Kornilov and in so doing found themselves, in one sense, on the
side of the Provisional Government of Kerensky in defence of the limited
freedoms which had been won — in a sense "in defence of the
institutions of bourgeois democracy."
This united front was for a specific purpose: the
Bolsheviks maintained their own organisation, their own programme and
stayed out of the government. It did not mean they supported Kerensky.
Rather, as Lenin put it, this action was "uncovering his
weakness" by showing who was really prepared to go to the end to
resist reaction. Their advice to the working class was to "use
Kerensky as a gun-rest to shoot Kornilov. Afterward we will settle with
Kerensky." (Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Vol.
2 [Sphere Books, 1967], p. 227). Their action forced the hand of other
parties and prevented betrayal.
In a revolutionary situation when the masses are
aroused it is no longer possible for the ruling class to rule as before.
Even the limited democratic rights allowed under capitalism in more
stable times became an unaffordable luxury in that they give the working
class freedom to organise. Rather than rally in defence of democracy and
parliament the ruling class is much more likely to move to curtail these
institutions. Typically, in Spain in 1936 and again in Chile in 1973,
they resorted to military methods. Under such conditions your crude
formulations about parliament simply would not do.
Yes, in the last analysis it is a question of taking
power into the hands of workers’ councils or soviets. But even in a
revolutionary situation this demand has to be skilfully posed. For a
period, it will be necessary to prepare for power, combining propaganda
and action to build support and to demonstrate to the working class that
only by taking power directly will they find a way forward. Only when
conditions are fully matured will it be possible to pose the question of
power more bluntly in an either/or fashion before the masses.
This was the experience of the Bolsheviks in 1917.
After the February revolution and the toppling of the Tsar there was a
period of dual power. The powerful soviets which had sprung up during
the revolution presented the outline of what could be a future
workers’ state. Lenin’s position was to advocate that the working
class complete the revolution and that all power be transferred to the
soviets. His first task when he returned to Russia in April was to
convince the Bolsheviks, especially the internal party leadership who
had been wavering and were considering closer links with the Mensheviks.
During the period following Lenin’s return the Bolsheviks, although a
minority in the soviets, put forward the slogan "all power to the
soviets" and agitated in the factories and among the soldiers and
sailors for this idea.
However, the conditions for a successful workers
revolution had not yet matured among the peoples across the vast expanse
of the old Tsarist Empire. Among the broad mass of the working class,
and especially among the peasantry, there were illusions in the
Provisional Government and in the promise of a Constituent Assembly. The
key agitational demands of the Bolsheviks had to take account of this:
for example the call placed on the Provisional Government for the
sacking of the capitalist ministers, in other words for a government of
the workers’ parties. While the Bolsheviks, at this time, might have
been able to take power in Petrograd and some other cities there was the
danger that this revolution would be isolated and defeated. When, in
July, sections of the working class and of the Petrograd garrison moved
prematurely against the Provisional Government the Bolsheviks urged
caution. They put themselves at the head of this movement, but in order
to restrain it and allow it to retreat in good order.
The repression which came in the aftermath of the
July Days was directed, among others, by Mensheviks who were both in the
government and in the leadership of the Petrograd Soviet. Following this
the slogan: "all power to the soviets" lost much of its
immediate meaning. The key was to withstand the reaction and to build
support in preparation for the next wave of the revolution.
Only in the latter stages of the revolution, when
experience of the failure of the Kerensky government to deliver on any
of its promises changed the consciousness, and when this was reflected
in the growth of the Bolsheviks within the Soviets, did Lenin advance
the slogan "all power to the soviets" as the immediate task.
If the issues of power to the soviets or workers’
councils has to be dealt with carefully and sensitively in a situation
of dual power how much more so in a non-revolutionary situation in which
there are not even elements of dual power. In such a period it is simply
ridiculous to put forward as a slogan the smashing of parliament and its
replacement with something which cannot be seen even in outline, not
even by the most far-sighted sections of the working class.
We are faced with the fact that Parliament exists and
that the mass of the population, despite their criticisms, look to it
for change. In 1940 Trotsky, while discussing the question of war,
explained how Marxists must make use of bourgeois institutions like
parliament. "The courts are bourgeois but we don’t boycott them
as the anarchists. We try to use them and fight within them. Likewise
with parliaments. We are enemies of the bourgeoisie and its
institutions, but we utilise them."
Trotsky carried the argument forward — to the
question of war: "War is a bourgeois institution a thousand times
more powerful than all the other bourgeois institutions. We accept it as
a fact like the bourgeois schools and try to utilise it." He
continues: "In the union I can say I am for the Fourth
International. I am against war. But I am with you. I will not sabotage
the war. I will be the best soldier just as I was the best and most
skilled worker in the factory. At the same time I will try to convince
you too that we should change society." (Writings, 1939-40,
So with parliament. There is no contradiction between
understanding, from a revolutionary point of view, the true nature of a
bourgeois parliament and at the same time fighting for every crumb,
every concession we can gain from it. In the same sense as Trotsky in
1940 advocated that the members of the Fourth International, while
opposing the war; in the case of that particular war should be the
"best soldiers," we must be the "best parliamentary
representatives," the most effective in squeezing every possible
concession and, at the same time, the most resolute in revealing its
limitations. If we are to expose the limits of change through parliament
we have to struggle within it to reach those limits and thereby bring
them into the view of the working class.
Instead of such sterile ultra-leftism we explain that
we are fighting to become the majority in parliament and go on to spell
out what we would do if we had that majority. We say we would pass
legislation to take the wealth out of the hands of the ruling class.
But, as the bitter experience of Chile showed, the ruling class will not
peaceably surrender their wealth and power. They would use their control
of the armed machinery of the state to resist. Under those circumstances
we would mobilise the working class to confront them, just as the
Bolsheviks did in August 1917. Part of this resistance would be the
formation of workers’ councils, of committees in the army, in short of
the emergence of an alternative state based on the independent power of
the working class. In this way the real question of power would be
Only a sectarian divorced from reality could reduce
this explanation to holding open "the possibility that socialism
can be achieved by a mass movement ‘backing up’ its parliamentary
representatives." The ability to go from abstract theoretical
understanding to a day-to-day programme and explanation, put forward in
a manner and language which can be understood, is one of the factors
which distinguishes Marxism from doctrinaire sectarianism. Your comments
on the issue of parliament place your party on the wrong side of that
line — and by quite some distance.
What is your alternative approach now that you have
come round to the idea of contesting elections? You say you would stand
for the "dung hill," but would "do so on a clear
revolutionary basis," (11 January letter). What does this mean?
Would you stand explaining that parliament is a con, that nothing can be
achieved through it, that it needs to be "smashed" and that
workers must rely on their own strength outside? Would you declare that
you would not present legislation, amend bills etc. in case you would be
sowing illusions in the possibility of achieving change through the
"dung hill"? In that case workers will say "fine, there
is not much point in voting for your party."
Or would you put forward a programme for which you
would fight within parliament, in which case, by your own argument, you
suddenly become "ambiguous" on the question. The truth is that
the declaration that you will stand "but on a revolutionary
basis" is just more "revolutionary" posturing and is
completely empty of content.
The revolutionary line which avoids the opposite but
twin pitfalls of ultra-leftism and opportunism is a difficult and often
narrow line which cannot be traced out in advance or from the sidelines
of the class struggle. It is not formed through declarations of
revolutionary intent, nor is it made deeper by revolutionary phrase
mongering. It can only be traced out in practice in the course of the
We scrutinise the ideas and policies of others on the
left to see if genuine common ground can be found. But the decisive test
is how these ideas are put into practice. What is most notable about
your criticism of the "electoralism" of the Socialist Party is
that it is confined to abstract theoretical points. Conspicuous by its
absence is any comment on our actual role in parliament since Joe
Higgins was elected as a Socialist Party TD in 1997.
A year earlier your 1996 Conference document
predicted that Joe Higgins, if elected, would succumb to "electoralism,"
in other words to reformist parliamentary pressures. Your 11 January
letter repeats the "electoralist" charge as if nothing had
happened in between. It contains the same tired accusations about where
we are heading, what will end up doing, but has not a word to say about
what we have actually done and are doing in the Dail.
The election of Joe Higgins is not the first occasion
that we have participated in parliament. In Britain, Dave Nellist, Pat
Wall and Terry Fields, all members of Militant, sat as Labour MPs and
were able to use parliament as a tribune for socialist ideas. Terry
Fields went to prison for refusing to pay his poll tax. None of these
representatives succumbed to the parliamentary pressures. Sadly, Pat
Wall died while an MP and the Labour leadership saw that he was replaced
by a right-winger. Terry Fields and Dave Nellist were expelled from the
Labour Party and eventually lost their seats because they refused to
abandon their ideas and their principles. Is this putting parliamentary
positions before the building of the revolutionary party? You appear to
be lost for words on this as well.
Like Terry Fields, Pat Wall and Dave Nellist, Joe
Higgins has not adopted the lifestyle or adapted to the customs and
norms of bourgeois politics. He lives on a workers wage and provides the
Dublin West electorate with an account of where the rest of his salary
and all his allowances go. He has used the Dail chamber to challenge the
establishment. He has brought the scent of the class struggle into the
otherwise rarefied atmosphere of the Dail, as with his handcuffed
gesture in solidarity with jailed building workers. He has used his
position to promote working class struggle outside the Dail, speaking at
countless meetings, protests and pickets. He has intervened in debates
on legislation, with opposition proposals and amendments. On top of this
he has carried a huge constituency caseload, trying to use his influence
to help working class people in Dublin West with day-to-day problems.
Lenin, who you are fond of (mis)quoting, often used
the expression, "an ounce of experience is worth a ton of
theory." You are loud with accusations made in the abstract but
when it comes to the concrete are strangely mute on the experience of
Joe Higgins’ role. If we are to have a properly informed debate on
"electoralism versus revolutionary politics" we would want to
know precisely what the "revolutionary" SWP would have done in
parliament that would be different from what Joe Higgins has actually
In your letter (11 January) you say: "Electoral
work is subordinate to the overall activity of the party. We do not,
therefore, see preparation for elections as the dominant focus for our
party’s work." At face value, we can accept this. But in the
context of the light-minded way in which your party takes up and drops
issues and your failure ever to lead or even participate in a sustained
manner in any mass campaign or struggle, we are naturally concerned that
the real meaning of this comment is that you will apply a similarly
casual approach on the electoral front.
Our electoral work is likewise subordinate to the
overall work of our party. But this does not mean that we do not take
extremely seriously the question of standing and the preparation for
standing. During elections we put ourselves on public view. How we
prepare, campaign, our result and our work in the constituency after the
election are all important in building our standing and developing our
base of support. We are concerned that your electoral work will be
conducted like other aspects of your work. You will appear with
candidates without having done the necessary preparatory work. Your
campaign will be to recruit to the SWP and little else. After the
election you will disappear to other fields of work.
We are engaged in the arduous task of sinking roots
in working class areas. Our electoral base has developed out of the
serious campaigning work we have conducted on the water charges and on
other issues. It is the political and now parliamentary extension of our
ongoing extra-parliamentary work. Given the position that we have built
and the reputation that we have to protect we will not lightly endorse
others who do not have a similarly serious approach.
In discussing some degree of future electoral
co-operation, we will also want to establish that this is not the way
you will behave. The fact that we have a TD means that we cannot enter
into electoral agreements lightly. A call from Joe Higgins for workers
to vote SWP means a certain public endorsement from our party. It means
that, in the eyes of the working class, we carry some degree of
responsibility for your actions. We are prepared to discuss the question
with you but we make clear at the outset that we will not tarnish our
reputation by endorsing candidates who have done no serious work in an
area and who will vanish from view once the votes have been counted.
During future elections we will consider advocating
votes to anti-establishment parties and others on the left. However,
unless you can convince us otherwise, we will give no blanket
endorsement to the SWP, but will decide our position constituency by
constituency. For example, in a case where an SWP candidate, who had no
real base, stood against a genuine community activist who had real
support, who leaned to the left, and who would not suddenly disappear
after the election, we would almost certainly advocate a vote for the
If we are to discuss with you, we would want, in
addition to the other concerns we have raised, to examine each
constituency where you are standing to see if you have real support and
are approaching the election in a serious manner. If you were to
implement what you said in your 1986 "Socialists and
Elections" document you would do the same. That document concludes
by saying: "Here a key consideration will be our success in our
more general approach of building roots over the next year… it is a
condition of standing in any area that we do have such roots."
The above are the issues we want to clarify in
discussing any possibility of electoral co-operation. Other ongoing
differences between us do not exclude joint work on the areas of
agreement and are therefore not crucial to the discussion. However, some
of these differences have come up in the course of our correspondence.
Your 11 January letter raises points on a number of
issues. Although most of these do not have an immediate bearing on the
debate on an electoral pact, we believe it is worth continuing a public
discussion on them.
Your letter mentions four points of differences, two
of which — trade union work and electoral work — we have already
dealt with. We do not believe we can define what distinguishes us from
your party in an arithmetical manner, as the sum of differences on a
number of specific questions. We see it as more fundamental, as a
question of method and approach. Political and tactical differences that
arise from time-to-time are merely the then current expression of the
more basic methodological gulf that divides us.
We are in agreement that the task in this epoch is to
build a revolutionary party which can carry through the overthrow of
capitalism and lay the basis for the building of a socialist society
internationally. We agree on this, but on what a revolutionary party is,
on how it is structured, on its programme and on the key question of how
it can be built, we clearly disagree.
Your 11 January letter implies that our
"ambiguity" on parliament must lead to an
"ambiguity" also on the explicit need for a revolutionary
party. And, indeed, if we were "ambiguous" on how society is
to be changed that would be true, but we have already dealt with your
arguments on that point. You cite the example of Scotland where our
sister organisation is working in a broad party, the Scottish Socialist
Party, and say "these issues will also emerge for you in the
future." The clear implication is that the Socialist Party in
Ireland, because of our "parliamentary approach" will lend up
as a broad party in which the distinction between reform and revolution
In dealing with Scotland you need to address the
actual situation. The Scottish Socialist Party was founded from the
Scottish Socialist Alliance, a broad formation within which our sister
party, then known as Scottish Militant Labour, was working. The
justification put forward for forming the Scottish Socialist Party was
that it offered a broader banner which could draw a much bigger section
of the working class behind it. The SSP is not affiliated to the CWI.
The group which is affiliated works within the SSP, but is organised
During this entire period, the SWP in Scotland acted
in a characteristically sectarian manner. You did not support us when we
successfully fought elections. You refused to take any part in the
Scottish Socialist Alliance.
The most recent turn taken by our Scottish comrades
has been extensively debated in our international organisation, the
Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI). Our World Congress, held
last autumn, disagreed with what they have done. It took the view that
their best option would have been to re-launch Scottish Militant Labour
as the Scottish Socialist Party. This would not have excluded ongoing
work within a broader socialist alliance if there were other genuine
forces to make this up.
The Congress viewed the launching of the SSP —
especially in the manner which was proposed — as a mistake. However,
now that it has been formed we believe that our comrades are correct to
work within it and make use of the opportunity to put our ideas to a
wider audience. To do this successfully requires that we are clear on
our political differences with the other non-revolutionary forces within
it, that we have separate publications to put our views forward and that
we pay attention to our own internal structures, to recruitment,
education and so on.
When the SSP proposal was first made, the material
produced by our Scottish comrades did contain some unclear formulations
about the need for a "hybrid" or "broad" party. We
think that too many concessions were made to get the SSP going and that
there needs to be the allocation of extra resources into building our
own organisation within it. These are the tasks now being undertaken by
those building the CWI in Scotland.
The CWI has 20 sections and a number of other
supporting groups. We work in a total of 35 countries and on every
continent. Our World Congress brings together delegates from all
sections and is the supreme decision making body of our International.
Points of difference are debated in a democratic manner and decisions
arrived at through debate.
A debate on any major issue is not the property of a
small circle at the top of the organisation, but is something in which
the membership needs to be involved. Whenever differences have arisen
within our International, or when it has been necessary to adjust our
position or to correct past mistakes, we have involved the full
membership in the discussions. International Discussion Bulletins,
containing all the material from all sides of a debate, have been
produced and made available to every member. Only in this way can we
educate and involve the membership and only then can the members, in
turn, become fully informed, intervene and act as a check on all
decisions made. When the recent World Congress criticised the Scottish
comrades and set out criteria for future work in the SSP, it did so in
an informed manner after a full debate.
You are free to criticise the policies and tactics of
the CWI. Debate around constructive criticism can only be beneficial.
But if you are going to do so you should attack us for our actual
policies and tactics, not for those we have specifically rejected.
It is inevitable that a revolutionary party with real
roots in the working class will come up against reformist/opportunist
pressures, as well, at times, as the opposite pressures towards
ultraleftism. Debates such as the CWI have had over Scotland are
absolutely inevitable as we chart the difficult course of constructing a
mass Marxist international.
In order to withstand the pressures of moods,
temporary or longer lasting, which develop within the working class, it
is essential that a revolutionary party maintains a democratic
centralist structure. This means the fullest internal discussion on all
issues including points of difference, but unity in action when it comes
to putting agreed decisions into effect.