1990s >> 1997 >> no-1111-march-1997

Letter: ‘Opportunity . . . for rich pickings’

Dear Editors,

Adam Buick states Militant Labour’s position has been for civil war to achieve socialism. This has never been the case.

We have always stated socialism will be carried out through democratic means and that it would be those who do not accept the democratic wishes of the majority of the people who would try to overthrow a socialist government.

If Adam Buick had ever taken the trouble to read our material he would know this. When Harold Wilson was Labour Prime Minister, certain leading figures in the armed forces and the business community discussed a possible military coup if Wilson carried out socialism.

Militant Labour has always argued for an extension of democracy. whereby MPs are accountable at all times through the right of recall, and only receive the average wage of a worker, ensuring they live in the same conditions and represent the interests of the people whom they represent.

The present system allows MPs to ignore the wishes of the electorate and vote themselves massive pay rises.

Many of them also have second or third jobs, and are open to corruption. You have to question in whose interest they act.

We have also always called for proper democratic control of the police and the judiciary so they serve the vast majority of people in this country, instead of the top wealthy 10 percent.

Brian Blake, 
Hillingdon, West London

Reply:
We don’t know which is more absurd. That Harold Wilson really could have “carried out socialism”, or that certain “leading figures” in the armed forces and business community really did discuss a military coup to overthrow him.

Wilson wouldn’t even have dreamed of carrying out socialism (he didn’t even know what it was—he once confessed that he couldn’t even get beyond page one of Marx’s Capital). But even if he had, he wouldn’t have been able to, since no government can introduce socialism for people any more than a vanguard party can.

As a system of common ownership, democratic control and production for use not profit demanding popular consent and participation, socialism can only be established when a majority want and understand it and show this by, among other things, voting for it. The fact that people had voted for a Labour government showed that what they wanted was Labour administration of capitalism not socialism.

Wilson was a capitalist politician elected to run British capitalism. Which he did in the only way possible: as a profit-making system in the interests of those who live off profits. To this end, he froze wages, denounced strikes and planned to bring in anti-union laws. All this earned him the gratitude, not the opposition. of the business community. Many of them took jobs on the quangos he set up while others accepted the knighthoods and peerages he was notorious for handing out to them.

Towards the end there was some discontent over his inability to hamstring the unions in the way Thatcher was later to do. but no “military coup” was discussed. The most that might have happened was some idle talk of this amongst disgruntled junior members of the intelligence service, at least if what one of them, Peter Wright, wrote in his book Spycatcher is to be believed.

You seem to be confusing this with the book and TV play A Very British Coup by Labour MP Chris Mullins. But this was a work of fiction and. in any event, more realistically than in your scenario, has the coup fail because people back the elected government and its prime minister.

But this is not the only place where you have mistaken fiction for reality. It’s the same with your claim that Militant does not envisage a civil war to achieve its aim. Militant is a Trotskyist organisation, i.e. a sect within the Leninist tradition. and Trotskyists have always argued that it is not possible for them to capture power peacefully and democratically through the ballot box.

If you doubt this, read Trotsky’s Terrorism and Communism and Lenin’s State and Revolution and his The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky—we are sure Militant’s book service will gladly supply them for you—in which the doctrine that the vanguard party can only come to power by means of a violent insurrection is set out in quite unambiguous terms.

This does not rule out Trotskyists contesting elections but only as a tactic to win influence and build up support for the vanguard party. Militant’s current electoralist “turn”, and accompanying change of name to a party, is to be seen in this light. It is merely a manoeuvre to better position itself viz its rivals, the SLP and the SWP, to take advantage of working-class discontent under a future Blair government.

This is made abundantly clear in an internal document published last November entitled “The Name Debate (4)”. Here Militant’s Executive Committee states that “the issue of the name of our organisation is a tactical or presentational issue, not a matter of principle” (p. 4) while a member of the National Centre writes that “politics is the art of timing and there is a serious danger that if we don’t come to a decision, we will miss the opportunity of rich pickings in the next period” (p. 44). How cynical can you get?

Editors