1970s >> 1979 >> no-893-january-1979

Letters: Sectarian Semantics

Sectarian Semantics
You defend your party’s policy of allowing only, as you term it, “conscious socialists” into membership. Really, this is not unlike the practices of the religious sect, the Exclusive Brethren. They only allow their members to partake of the rites peculiar to that body.

Your pamphlet, “The Communist Manifesto and the Last Hundred Years” is, one assumes, a faithful exposition of your party’s policy. Anyway, it is complete with the secular nihil obstat of your Head Office address.

Tenet No. 8 says:

The SPGB, therefore, enters the field of political action, determined to wage war against all other political parties.

How differently did Marx and Engels view the way Communists should behave towards their own class members.

In Section II of “The Communist Manifesto” they wrote:

The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties.
They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.
They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

The thoughtful reader, thus, is forced to question the standpoint of tiny, impotent organisations like the SPGB. SWP, IMG, and similar small bodies calling themselves Communist/Socialist. It seems evident that they are mere sectarian organisations and, therefore, anti-Marxist.

If we are to accept what Marx and Engels said in the above passage, we should be a member of the main working-class party of this country, the British Labour Party. Any refusal to do so means sectarians have interests separate and apart from the proletariat as a whole. What is that? Big fish in small streams?

H. C. Mullin 
Glasgow


Reply:
A Socialist party must admit only conscious Socialists to membership for the simple reason that to do otherwise would attract people of all sorts of political opinions; people interested in anything but Socialism. To do this would destroy our character as a Socialist party. And we don’t have any rites—our sole reason for membership is to propagate the idea of Socialism.

Clause 8 of our Declaration of Principles is, in fact, in line with the passages quoted from the Communist Manifesto (although if it were not, this would not make it wrong; we don’t accept everything which Marx and Engels wrote, which would be pure dogmatism.)

There are no other working class parties in this country if by that term we mean parties which stand for the interests of the working class. A working class party must have as its object the only political object in the workers’ interest — the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by Socialism.

To describe the Labour Party as a “working class party” is to ignore their long record of opposition to working class interests—wage restraint and inflated currency (which, in effect, means a fall in real wages), racist immigration laws, production of nuclear weapons, fighting British capitalism’s wars in Korea, Malaya and the like. The list of Labour’s attacks on the working class is very long.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain and its companion parties abroad stand in direct contrast to this miserable record. We have always kept our object clear. This is not sectarian—it is consistent and principled.

 

Guilty By Association
The profound truths of the Socialist Standard are legion, whilst the humour, quite rightly, is rare. It was however with some amusement that I learn from “Question and answer” page 227 Dec ’78 that the Railway Clerks Association (RCA) later became the Russian news agency TASS, instead of the Transport Salaried Staffs association, (TSSA) or Tessa.

 

No wonder Railway men have been called a bunch of Commies.

 

Yours fraternally
R. A. Hale 
London E.10

 

AB of Leeds
We are still happy to publish readers’ letters, with our reply—see this issue. Recently, for some reason, fewer people have been writing to us. We don’t publish anonymous letters, though —nor, of course, can we reply to them. If you will let us know your name and address we will reply to your points.

Editorial Committee