1980s >> 1981 >> no-924-august-1981

Party News: Anti-Democrats Exposed

Remember the birth of the new Social Democratic Party? They were going to be the radical new face of British politics. No more secret meetings in smoke-filled rooms for Open debate was to be the order of the day. The guardians of democracy had arrived.
Now. it takes more than a bunch of ex-Labour careerists to persuade the SPGB that anything new is happening. So, on 6 March of this year a member of our Islington branch wrote to the Islington Gazette with the following message about the so-called Gang of Four:

  Rumour has it that a new ‘Democratic Socialist Party’ will soon be on the scene, nationally and perhaps locally. As an active socialist in Islington. I can appreciate the sympathy which many local people would feel for it. Many of us are appalled by the patronising arrogance and undemocratic elitism of the traditional Left. Most of us are unimpressed by the absurd efforts of that tupenny circus, the Liberal Party, to convince us that its political opportunism is somehow more virtuous than that exhibited by its opponents. All but the privileged and the naive are beginning to see through the vicious defence of capitalism of the Tories. So, ought the new Council for Social Democracy to be welcomed as a radical alternative? Most certainly not.
A gang of political careerists, with a sterile programme of more nuclear arms madness, more Keynesian economic nonsense and more of the same old profit system which serves the few and exploits the many, is no alternative at all. Despite the media’s frantic efforts to give the Gang of Bores a chance to spell out the case for Social Democracy, they have failed to offer anything but the same old social inequality, class division and oppression which arc the hallmarks of capitalism. Contrary to the confused views of the leftist-guard-dogs of the state, socialism means social democracy: the common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution by the entire community. The Utopians who want to reform capitalism from a nightmare into a paradise may indeed follow the new set of leaders, but I for one shall be staying in the Socialist Party of Great Britain and fighting for real social democracy.

Tire following week (March 13) a letter appeared from one Tim Jilani. who said

Illustration by George Meddemmen.

that he found ‘the prospects of the Council for Social Democracy very exciting as it represents the resurgence of political thought of the radical middle ground.’ On March 20 the Gazette published a reply from an Islington SPGBer. pointing out that:

  There simply Is no middle ground between escalating militarism and the human desire for secure survival, between production for profit and production for need, between the dictatorship of the few and the democratic co-operation of the many.

In the same issue was a letter from a so-called social-democrat called Edward Partridge, who wrote that:

  As a local active supporter of the Council for Social Democracy, I challenge [the SPGB) to substantiate its bland assertion that the SDP . . .  is no alternative at all.

Socialists, being democrats, never turn down challenges. So in the Islington Gazette of April 3 we issued a public acceptance of the challenge and stated our intention to debate with the social-democrats whenever and wherever they wished. Then we waited for the ‘Democrats’ to respond (first making sure that a copy of the letter was sent to them).
Then came the Greater London Council election campaign. The Social Democrats were very active, taking four full-page ads in the Islington Gazette at an approximate cost of £1,000. But despite all the noise coming from their direction no reply was received to our letter. When a Party member stopped the SD candidate, Douglas Eden, and asked him what he intended to do about the debate, he replied that his election agent was ‘dealing with it’. Now, Douglas Eden is the kind of political trickster from whom one would not buy a proverbial second-hand car. In the event the electorate did not buy his second-hand policies either and Eden lost the election.
Since GLC polling day (May 7) Islington branch’s secretary has waited by his letter box every morning to see if the bogus democrats have decided to reply to what was a response to their challenge to defend our case. Not a word has been heard. On July 3 the following letter from a member was published in the Islington Gazette:

   In the Islington Gazette (April 3) I issued a public challenge on behalf of the Socialist Party of Great Britain to the so-called Social-Democrats to come out into the open and debate their policies. Then the voters of Islington would be able to choose between the revolutionary stand taken by our party which the Social Democrats prefer to attack by means of unsubstantiated slander and the reformist manifesto of their party. So far there has been no response at all from the ‘Brave New Face of British Politics’ — not even a letter to say that the democrats refuse to debate. Perhaps we should have offered them a TV debate with Robin Day or David Dimbleby loading the questions in their favour. But to debate in front of ordinary workers — why, it would be beneath their dignity, wouldn’t it?

The Social Democrats are cynical liars when they talk of the need for free, open and tolerant debate. We have proved that they are scared of debate because their bankrupt policies will be exposed by the logic of socialists. The editor of the Islington Gazette is to be congratulated for revealing these people for what they are — political eon-men.
Steve Coleman