1960s >> 1969 >> no-781-september-1969

20 plan to launch ‘Socialist Party’

A conference of May Day Manifesto supporters held in Leeds over the weekend of July 19-20 passed a resolution by 20 votes to four (with eight abstentions) which commits them to initiate “the formation of the Socialist Party and the organisation of a coherent socialist candidature at the next general election.” This represents a clear advance on earlier positions taken up by the May Day Manifest groups when many of them saw themselves as little more than dissident members of the Labour Party. Now they recognise that “the source of Labour’s repeated failures as an agency for Socialism” lies “not in the personalised betrayals of leaderships, nor in the abstract virus of ‘Right- Wing Labour’, but in the concrete limitations of Labourism”; in other words. Labourism must be broken with entirely and an independent Socialist Party organised.

Confused demands

This view was, of course, pioneered by the Socialist Party of Great Britain and we are pleased to see that other workers are now coming to accept it. But nevertheless the May Day Manifesto supporters do not intend to join the Socialist Party. In fact, their rejection of what they call the ‘subordinate reformism’ of Labour is linked with a criticism of ‘maximalist revolutionism’—by which they mean the confused, reformist demands touted by the various trotskyist sects! What they propose as an alternative is a “strategy of graduated ends”, a fancy name for yet another reform programme. Little wonder then that a visitor from Bradford asked in bewilderment at one stage of the conference, “What in this new party means it’s going to be different from other parties?”

Supporters of the suggested new party also seem to be firmly under the spell of the other common leftist delusions. During the conference breaks members of the Socialist Party discussed these issues with some of the May Day Manifesto members. Their most frequent objections to our Party were that we are too small to be taken seriously and that by preaching pure Socialism in the form of ‘abolition of the wages system’ we are out of touch with the working class. Now as a matter of actual fact the Socialist Party of Great Britain completely dwarfs the May Day Manifesto groups, and as for the proposed new ‘Socialist Party’, at this stage the chances of it reaching triple figures seem infinitely remote. Of course, what really makes us unacceptable to all shades of leftists is not our admittedly tiny organisation but the fact that we do not pretend that we are going to ‘lead the masses’. But their other objection is richer still. Socialists certainly have no illusions about the difficulties involved in getting ideas like a world without money across to workers steeped in capitalist values, but at least we recognise that Socialism is a simple idea which it is quite possible to express in simple language. Contrast this to May Day Manifesto phraseology. The documents they were debating at their conference bristled with passages like:

  Further, it demands that the goals be articulated together in a strategic vision, and that as the struggle progresses, pressing on to the structural limits of the system, it gains not only in breadth, but also in depth. Such a dialectical development of the struggle presupposes a pre-existent socialist intention among the masses, (etc. etc.)

And they say we are out of touch with the working class!

John Crump