Monday, 16 September 2013

Growing divisions in the Socialist Party?

A few weeks back I pondered on the question of whether there would be a split in the Socialist Party, which following the collapse of it's rival, the Socialist Workers Party is the "largest" far-left political party on the far-left. Of course this position could change in November if the Left Unity project actually manages to turn itself into a fully fledged political party as the amount of disputatious factionalism currently taking place may tear it apart very quickly, but for the minute the Socialist Party takes the "crown".

However there appears to be a continuing dispute over the analysis of the crisis between the current leadership and an openly dissident member who runs a blog called Marx returns from the grave a rather interesting, if somewhat tedious at times place to visit. The author is locked in an academic debate with what he refers to as simply "the CWI leadership".


For the uninitiated the CWI stands for Committee for a Workers International and is the Socialist Party's equivalent of the various "Fourth Internationals" (and there are many) that most rival trotskyist organisations have established.

In true democratic centralist tradition the existence of an opposition website operating in public has not gone down well with the Socialist Party leadership. Bruce tells us that:

I have been asked to cease this blog and it’s ‘’attacks’’ on the CWI. I must reiterate, yet again, that this blog is not attacking the CWI but the flawed position held by the leadership and I’m doing so openly. The point is that the content of this blog makes a powerful political argument and that is why people are drawn to it. 

Bruce also reports that the party leadership have prepared a document 10,000 words long as a reply to his blog. If they are going to that kind of trouble then his efforts must be having some effect on the internal affairs of the Socialist Party and if it ever sees the light of day will be of some interest to inveterate "trot-spotters".

What caught my attention though was an argument over the involvement of Socialist Party members in my union the PCS involving the alternative to austerity programme produced by the unions current (SP dominated) leadership.


Certainly not a choice for my reading list, but not for the same reasons Bruce chooses. He is highly critical of Janice Godrich, Socialist Party member and President of PCS. He says:

We do not, for one moment,  dip our banner and we do not agree under any pretext to accept a reformist program with minimum demands although we will participate in struggles around specific demands e.g. a 24 hour general strike. That was the issue of the pamphlet endorsed by Janice Godrich in that it proposes a complete reformist program to end austerity.

...the point is that the pamphlet Austerity isn’t working isn’t a real program for fighting austerity and is a reformist hodgepodge. However Neil then goes on to really show his lack of understanding of how revolutionaries should view successful struggles of the class.
‘’Let’s be clear. If the PCS was to achieve the demands outlined in its pamphlet that would be a victory for the working class.  A limited victory?  Yes. A temporary victory? Yes. Would it go far enough to secure the ultimate interests of the working class, a socialist society? No, but it would be a victory nonetheless’’.
Let’s reverse the question. What would be the gains of the class if the SP was to pull the rug on Left Unity in order to pursue an isolationist policy within the union. It would be a gift to the right wing bureaucracy and the government. PCS would be weaker when the public sector is under intense assault. I repeat this would be nothing short of boneheaded sectarianism of the worst sort. It would destroy the credibility of our trade union cadres that has been built up over decades. Sometimes it is necessary to break with others on the left in the unions when no other course is available to us. This is not one of those times. We must use our freedom to put forward our ideas to pursue a policy of patient explanation, not sectarian division’’.
This did not go down well with Janice's mates at the Party centre who replied with zest that:

Janice Godrich is the highest elected lay official of the PCS, a union of roughly 250,000 people. I think you’ll agree that 250,000 organised workers will have a broad range of ideas about how to combat the crisis? The document produced by the PCS is the broad consensus of a mass organisation of the class which is not a revolutionary organisation. It is in effect, a united front of workers organised in the civil service towards achieving certain limited reforms within capitalism.

The question for our comrades in the PCS then becomes, are we willing to break this united front (for that is what Janice’s refusal to sign the document and then undertake public criticism of it would mean), are we prepared to show serious division in our own ranks against a government that is looking to destroy PCS for fear (in my view unfounded) of sowing illusions in Keynsianism? Are we prepared to break apart PCS Left Unity, one of the key factors behind making the PCS one of the most combative organisations within the trade union movement because other workers within this united front do not share the same outlook as us.

It is unlikely that many (if any) of the Socialist Party supporters on the gravy train that is the bureaucracy of PCS would want to undermine their positions and lose control of their flagship project in the trade unions. With the PCS General Secretary currently unwell, the Assistant General Secretary Chris Baugh another member of the Socialist Party is fulfilling his stated life-long ambition of being the "big cheese" in PCS. He thinks its' his birthright according to some internal Left Unity e-mails I saw some time ago.

How far this dispute will go is as yet still unknown and although Bruce tells us he has some 600 subscribers, I suspect much interest is from outsiders who are not used to seeing the comrades of the Socialist Party doing their dirty laundry in public.

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