1980s >> 1982 >> no-930-february-1982

Labour and the Trotskyists

So the NEC of the Labour Party has decided to investigate the so-called Militant Tendency, a group of Trotskyites who have been boring from within the Labour Party for years; fairly successfully it seems in that they have managed to get a number of their members adopted as official Labour parliamentary candidates. Socialists normally would not get involved in this argument and couldn’t care a damn whether or not the Militant Tendency is expelled from the Labour Party. We are however compelled to intervene when both sides argue about the right of “Marxists” to belong to the Labour Party.

The Labour Party is, and has always been an open-house organisation prepared to accept all comers provided they agree to vote and work for the election of Labour candidates. Which Trotskyites, even those not in the Labour Party, have always been prepared to do. But Marxists? A genuine Marxist would not even think of joining a reformist, anti-working class outfit like the Labour Party, which has always supported capitalism and has many times participated in its administration, inevitably to the detriment of wage and salary earners. Which is why membership of, or voting for the Labour Party is incompatible with membership of the SPGB. They are on our list of proscribed organisations and we would consider it an honour to be on their’s!

The fact that Trotskyites are prepared to vote for and join the Labour Party is one of the many reasons we are opposed to them too. At one time in the 1950s and 1960s, all the Trotskyite groups in Britain – including the predecessors of the SWP and Vanessa Redgrave’s comic opera “Workers Revolutionary Party”- were in the Labour Party. They defended it on a number of grounds, particularly that it was supposed to be the “mass party of the working class” and would enact a few more reforms than the Tory Party. Then, after the 1968 General Strike in France had appeared to show that students could have direct access to “the workers” without belonging to traditional reformist parties, most left to set up their own independent parties (for doing which we used to be accused by them of “sectarianism”). Most, but not all. Ted Grant and his group stayed in and, freed from their rivals, were eventually to grow relatively influential. The others, as the application of Tariq Ali to join the Labour Party shows, are beginning to think that the time may be right to start fishing again in Labour Party waters.

The Militant Tendency are Trotskyists, and of the most orthodox variety. They are ardent defenders of the absurd theory that Russia is a “workers’ state”, albeit of the degenerate kind. Their conception of the “socialist” revolution is a re-run of the Bolshevik coup d’état of November 1917 with a vanguard party leading the “masses” in a violent insurrection against the government (it is not clear whether Ted Grant is to play the role of Lenin or Trotsky). Thus when they proclaim a loyalty to the Labour Party they are being thoroughly deceitful. They have nothing but contempt for the Labour Party and its policy of gradual reform through Parliament. But, as we have said, that is the Labour Party’s problem not ours.

As to the claim that the Militant Tendency is Marxist, we have already pointed out that the mere fact of being in the Labour Party is alone sufficient to disqualify them from the description. This also applies to their other views, from the one that the workers need leaders (a Leninist Vanguard Party – them) to their admiration for the alleged economic achievements of state capitalist Russia (whose side they would be prepared to take in any future war with the West). Needless to say, they don’t know what socialism is either. This writer once heard Ted Grant say that wages would exist in socialist society. As their admiration for aspects of the Russian system indicate, they stand for a kind of state capitalism. Since the Labour Party, with its so-called “Alternative Economic Strategy” is also moving (at least on paper and for the time being, while they are out of office) in this direction, perhaps there is a place for the Militant Tendency in the Labour Party after all.

The final irony of the situation is that the Trotskyite policy of boring from within “the main party of the working class” seems to have achieved its greatest success at the very moment the workers are deserting the Labour Party in droves. The question now is: if they are expelled from the Labour Party, will they start trying to bore into the SDP?

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