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Workers Hammer No. 204

Autumn 2008

Panel discussion on SL/B history

Spartacism in Britain

Origins and development

A special session of the Spartacist League/Britain’s National Conference in August was devoted to a panel discussion on the pre-history of the section and our tactics towards the Labour Party roughly spanning the decade from 1974, when miners strikes brought down Edward Heath’s Conservative government, to the great miners strike of 1984-85. The presentations and discussion involved comrades from different countries and political backgrounds.

The broad frame of reference for the panel discussion is described in the article in our last issue, “Thirty years of the Spartacist League/Britain” (Workers Hammer no 203, Summer 2008) which made the point that the founding of the Spartacist League/Britain in 1978 represented a significant step in our struggle to reforge the Fourth International. Central to our international perspective was the fight against Pabloism, the revisionist current led by Michel Pablo which programmatically destroyed Trotsky’s Fourth International in 1951-53. Pabloism was characterised by a renunciation of the need for revolutionary leadership of the working class, ie Trotskyist parties, and an adaptation to the existing social-democratic, Stalinist and petty-bourgeois nationalist leaderships. The Pabloite revisionists were opposed by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the US, led by James Cannon, albeit belatedly and on their own national terrain. In 1953 Cannon’s SWP split from Pablo and, together with other anti-Pabloite forces internationally — centrally the French Organisation Communiste Internationaliste and Gerry Healy’s British followers, went on to form the International Committee (IC).

But with the Cuban Revolution the SWP (US) embraced Pablo’s revisionism and carried out a reunification with Pablo’s forces in 1963 which was to result in the United Secretariat (USec). Our tendency originated as the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) that was expelled in 1963 from the SWP in the US and went on to found the Spartacist League/ US. A central question on which the RT was formed was opposition to the SWP’s abandonment of the fight for a Trotskyist party in Cuba following the overthrow of capitalism by Castro’s petty-bourgeois forces (see “Genesis of Pabloism”, Spartacist [English edition] no 21, Fall 1972). The fight against Pabloism was key to the survival of Trotskyism and the founding cadre of the RT initially stood in political solidarity with the IC. However, as was stated during the panel discussion, far from fighting against Pabloite liquidationism the British section of the IC — led by Gerry Healy, an unprincipled political bandit — was itself mired in Labourite reformism.

In preparation for the panel discussion comrade Jon Branche wrote a letter noting that the political framework for the international expansion of our tendency was laid out in the document “Declaration for the Organizing of an International Trotskyist Tendency” of July 1974 (published in Spartacist [English edition] no 23, Spring 1977) which stated: “The Spartacist League of Australia and New Zealand and the Spartacist League of the United States declare themselves to be the nucleus for the early crystallization of an international Trotskyist tendency” and that in “half a dozen other countries parties, groups and committees have expressed their general or specific sympathy or support for the international Spartacist tendency, as have scattered supporters or sympathizers from a number of additional countries”. These countries included France, Germany and Austria as well as Canada, Israel and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Branche’s letter stressed that our understanding of the contradictions of the Labour Party in Britain as a bourgeois workers party “had been codified or at least honed in the course of intervening against left Pabloite groups, particularly in Germany and Austria”. A speaker on the panel, comrade Herbert Adler, stressed that for our German section, the understanding that bourgeois workers parties embody a contradiction and that our strategic perspective is to split such parties, was a key question. Adler quoted from a March 1972 letter by W Moore and James Robertson of the Spartacist League/US to left Pabloites in Germany who argued that the SPD was a bourgeois party, which asserted:

“So far as we know both factions in your split characterize the SPD as a bourgeois technocratic party (akin to the U.S. Democratic Party). We consider this not merely wrong but that without a correct position on this question there cannot be a viable strategy for proletarian revolution in Germany. Only the low level of the class struggle in post-war Germany inhibits a manifest recognition that the SPD is a reformist (i.e. both bourgeois and proletarian) party which must at some point be destroyed. If the revolutionists ignore it, the SPD will employ its historically-evolved authority among the workers to disrupt and defeat the next revolutionary onslaught. The SPD’s destruction must be sought at the appropriate junctures through intervention to sharpen inner differentiation to resolve, i.e. split, it into its essential bourgeois and proletarian elements, the latter organized into or led by a Leninist party.”

Among the comrades attending the panel discussion was comrade Kurt Weiss who was part of a regroupment from the Bolshevik-Leninists in Austria who in 1974 signed a “Declaration of Political Basis for Common Work in Germany” with the Spartacist League/US. The declaration upheld the decisions of the first four congresses of the Communist International and the Transitional Programme of 1938, the founding document of Trotsky’s Fourth International and agreed on: “Unconditional defense of the degenerated or deformed workers states against capitalist imperialism”, which it said “must be coupled with recognition of the necessity for political revolution against the bureaucracies of all these states, from Moscow and East Berlin to Belgrade, Hanoi, Havana and Peking” (Workers Vanguard no 39, 1 March 1974).

Another panellist, comrade James Robertson — a founding member of the Revolutionary Tendency — opened his remarks by saying: “The Second World War led to the fragmentation of the Trotskyist movement internationally, by the combination of a very sharp international fight between Shachtman and Burnham and Trotsky and Cannon, followed shortly by the murder of Trotsky who was overwhelmingly the principal head of the international communists. The work that we have undertaken was an attempt to undo this political and organisational fragmentation.” Emphasising the importance we attached to breaking out of the US, he said we knew that if we became content with a mere domestic existence, that was already a profound programmatic deformation that would render us sterile as a communist movement. In the abstract we would never have dreamed of New Zealand, Israel and Sweden as the central axis of world Trotskyism, and also later Austria, the last of the Hapsburg regime. But as Robertson said, that’s where individuals popped up and from there we proceeded to get to places we regarded as especially central, above all France, which was the unquestioned centre of the world’s purported Trotskyism as result of the explosive consequences of the events of 1968 and indeed for a long time previously.

Describing a visit to Brussels to intervene at a USec conference in 1970, Robertson noted that Belgium gave us the first intimations of what happens when two nations — the Flemish and the Walloons — are forced together within one state power. This proved to be very helpful later when we looked at a much larger situation of two nations — English Canada and Quebec — forced together in one state power. He noted that we set up a station in London to “seek to find roots and involvement in British society”. This came to fruition when the London Spartacist Group fused with a faction from the Workers Socialist League to found the Spartacist League/ Britain.

Marxists v Labourism

The SL/B Conference Document asserted that: “Historically and today, the strategic task in the construction of a revolutionary party in Britain is to break workers from illusions in Labourite parliamentary reformism.” The panel discussion confirmed that it was the sheer political bankruptcy of the old Labour reformist programme that led to the rise of Margaret Thatcher and of New Labour. The difficult conditions under which British workers struggle today are part of the legacy of the defeated miners strike of 1984-85, after which Thatcher vindictively began the shutdown of the entire coal-mining industry, whose workforce had been the militant backbone of the proletariat in Britain for decades. The whole panoply of anti-union laws imposed by Thatcher and maintained intact by New Labour are the outcome of treacherous defeats of the working class in tumultuous class battles that crippled the country in the early 1970s.

The panellist who addressed this period, comrade George Crawford, said that the Workers Vanguard articles in this period read like a textbook on what a bourgeois workers party is and how a small communist group “tactically draws out the contradictions and attempts to intervene in one hell of a lot of class struggle”. This period actually began in 1964 with the election of the Harold Wilson Labour government. British imperialism, having lost its hegemonic power, was in profound decline economically and unable to compete with its European rivals. The only way for the capitalist rulers to increase competitiveness was by forcibly reducing the wages of British working people. The Wilson government had to attack Labour’s own base and in 1969 Labour minister Barbara Castle produced the document “In Place of Strife” that proposed wage controls, strike ballots and a ban on secondary picketing. This was overwhelmingly rejected by the trade unions, particularly by the very strong shop stewards committees, and Wilson backed down. In 1970 Edward Heath’s Conservatives were elected and attempted to break the unions with Heath’s 1971 Industrial Relations Act. This was met with the biggest strike wave in the country since the 1926 general strike. Building workers, printers and engineers took strike action, as did the miners, railwaymen and dockers — three unions, Crawford noted, which had immense significance and power in an island economy that was dependent on coal, transport and docks. A decade later we would call upon these three unions to “shut down the country” during the 1984-85 miners strike.

As Crawford noted, the 1972 arrest of five dockers’ shop stewards who were imprisoned in Pentonville jail was met with a mass upsurge of working-class protest. The level of militancy and radicalisation of the powerful unions scared the TUC into calling for a one-day general strike. When the government quickly released the “Pentonville Five”, the TUC called off the strike. With the Labour Party trying to ride the wave of unrest to get back into office we wrote:

“The Labour Party will never be shattered until its dual role is exposed by its own actions in power and under the continuous scathing criticism of the revolutionary Marxists. It is toward this end that revolutionists call upon the Labour Party to carry out its proclaimed fight to place the working class in power. It is in this sense and this sense only that critical support — ‘as a rope supports a hanging man’ — can have any meaning other than the cynical strengthening of illusions among the working masses. The polarization of the Labour Party, splitting away its working-class base on a revolutionary class program, will open the road to the construction by the workers of their own organs of power — a mass revolutionary party and workers’ councils.”

Workers Vanguard no 12, October 1972

In a period of international radicalisation and with Labour’s base moving to the left, at its 1973 conference the party adopted a radical-sounding programme that included a promise to nationalise some two dozen of the country’s largest manufacturers; Labour right-winger Denis Healey even promised to tax the rich.

In January 1974 the miners union began an overtime ban. When the Heath regime imposed a national lockout — a compulsory three-day working week and a corresponding loss in wages — the miners voted for all-out strike. With the country in a profound economic and political crisis, Heath called elections for February 1974 for the explicit purpose of smashing the miners strike. At the time we said:

“What is required is a unified labor offensive to defeat the Heath government and reverse the entire complex of its recent anti-labor economic measures. This means a general strike centering on (though certainly not limited to) ending the shortened work-week/lockout, breaking state wage controls and winning major wage gains backed by a full cost-of-living adjustment.”

Workers Vanguard no 38, 15 February 1974

As Crawford pointed out, “there was no alternative leadership in Britain at this point, and a general strike can easily go over into an insurrectionary situation in which the working class can suffer serious losses”. An insurrectionary general strike under a Labourite leadership would have been a disaster for the working class, thus we made clear that our tactic was to call for a limited, defensive general strike to get rid of the Tory government and its anti-union laws. We called on the TUC to prepare a general strike, organised through the shop stewards, for demands such as: smash the lockout and for immediate elections to oust the Tory government. In contrast to the myriad of pseudo-Trotskyists who, as always, simply wanted to replace the Tories with a Labour government, we called for a government of the Labour Party and TUC pledged to a socialist programme of expropriating the bourgeoisie. As Crawford noted , it was particularly critical in Britain — where illusions in parliament are rife — to include the trade unions and give our tactic an extra-parliamentary dimension. In contrast to the 1984-85 miners strike, when the TUC and Labour leadership openly tried to sabotage the strike, in 1974 there were tremendous illusions in the TUC.

Labour won the February 1974 election by a very narrow margin and Wilson called a second election for November. We once again called for critical support to Labour, while saying: “No to Wilson’s Social Contract”. Labour won again and in 1976, James Callaghan took over from Wilson as prime minister. Callaghan later entered a coalition with the Liberals, an outright bourgeois party. During Callaghan’s Lib-Lab pact we stressed our opposition in principle to voting for workers parties in popular-front coalitions: we had a policy of conditional non-support to Labour in elections, that is, we refused to vote for candidates unless and until they repudiated Labour’s coalitionism. Following a massive strike wave known as the “Winter of Discontent”, in May 1979 Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government was elected. We said “No vote to Labour!” in 1979 and stated that Labour’s betrayals had led to the viciously anti-union Thatcher government.

The rebirth of British Trotskyism

The panellist addressing the founding of the SL/B, comrade Jo Woodward, had been a member of the Trotskyist Faction of the Workers Socialist League (WSL) that fused with the London Spartacist Group in 1978. The WSL emerged in 1974 when Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) expelled 200 members led by Alan Thornett, the WRP’s prominent industrial trade union leader. In May 1975, shortly after the WSL was founded, capitalism was overthrown in South Vietnam ending decades of civil war against the imperialists and colonialists. Illustrating the really fertile political climate at that time, Woodward said, in the Cowley car plant where Thornett worked, when the fall of Saigon was announced on the radio, the whole factory stopped work and applauded. But as it turned out, while the WSL had a posture of orthodox Trotskyism it simultaneously adapted to the Labour Party and trade union milieu. Thornett’s split was actually to the right of Healy’s WRP, rejecting the WRP’s formal adherence to the need for a Trotskyist vanguard. Woodward stressed that under Healy’s veneer of orthodox Trotskyism was a long-standing political adaptation to the Labour “lefts”.

In 1956, when many thousands of members resigned from the Communist Parties over the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy’s military suppression of the proletarian political revolution in Hungary, Healy did an excellent job of picking up the intelligentsia and industrial cadres from the British Communist Party. Following this regroupment, Healy set up the Socialist Labour League (SLL) which published Labour Review and Marxist documents such as World Prospect for Socialism (1961). From a distance the founding cadre of the Spartacist tendency initially stood in political solidarity with the SLL on the basis of World Prospect for Socialism, a powerful statement of Marxist purpose, and were unaware that Healy was an unprincipled political bandit.

At a 1966 London conference our comrades were repelled by Healy’s bureaucratic practices, which soon took on political expression when Healy’s organisation embraced Mao’s Red Guards during the “Cultural Revolution” — a violent intra-bureaucratic power struggle amongst the Chinese Stalinists launched in 1966. The WRP later championed the concept of a classless “Arab revolution”, while being bankrolled by Arab bourgeois regimes and in 1979 grotesquely hailed the execution of 21 Iraqi Communist Party members by the Ba’ath regime. Woodward noted that the WRP spectacularly imploded following the miners strike of 1984-85, having set up an anti-Communist provocation against Arthur Scargill on the eve of the strike. (See “Healyism Implodes”, Spartacist [English edition] no 36-37, Winter 1985-86.)

The Trotskyist Faction

Woodward stressed that the need for revolutionaries to stand candidates against Labour in elections was key to winning the Trotskyist Faction to Spartacism. Thornett’s WSL criticised the WRP from the right for running candidates against Labour in the 1974 elections. In contrast, the Spartacist tendency gave critical support to WRP candidates, whose formal programme went beyond the bounds of managing capitalism but who did not agitate for a general strike to defend the working class against Heath’s attack. Woodward said that critical support “is really only half a tactic” — we would always like to be in a position to stand our own candidates against Labour.

The Trotskyist Faction’s agreement with the Spartacist tendency was largely expressed in the document “In defence of the revolutionary programme” (re-published in Workers Hammer no 203, Summer 2008). Woodward stated that the question of Ireland featured prominently in the regroupment process. She went on to recall three events that she remembered best that brought her to the international Spartacist tendency’s politics. The first was when a member of the Trotskyist Faction presented a motion to the national committee of the WSL titled “The Marxist Attitude to the Police” that began: “The police force is the direct repressive agency of the capitalist state.” The motion was rejected. The issue of the state is still a huge dividing line between us and the opponents today. The second was when she asked a national committee member of the WSL, “surely you don’t really believe that a ‘left’ Labour government is a workers government?” He said yes, that’s our position, and Woodward knew she was in the wrong organisation. The third event was when the WSL’s paper Socialist Press called on blood-soaked British imperialism to arm black nationalist forces fighting against apartheid in South Africa. That showed that the WSL was not wedded to the programme of Trotskyism, but to the Labour Party.

Woodward concluded by saying that the Trotskyist Faction’s 1978 document “In defence of the revolutionary programme” warned that US president Carter’s “Human Rights” campaign was “designed to garner popular support for the military mobilisation continually underway against the Soviet Union”. The world was then pregnant with Cold War II and soon the “Russian Question” would threaten to blow the Labour Party apart.

Labour’s Cold War

Comrade Len Michelson continued this theme in his presentation on our tactics towards Labour during the early 1980s. “Iron Lady” Thatcher was intent on waging war on the unions. She was also a staunch Cold Warrior in the anti-Soviet crusade launched by the imperialists when Soviet troops went into Afghanistan in 1979 at the request of the PDPA government which was facing the CIA-backed mujahedin insurgency. The Labour Party’s working-class base was in uproar against the policies of the previous Labour government led by James Callaghan and Denis Healey and the party was about to undergo several years of deep instability. With the onset of Cold War, this led to a revival of the Labour “lefts” led by Tony Benn and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) which organised mass demonstrations in opposition to Cruise and Trident missiles, and against the Soviet Union’s SS-20s. We sold huge numbers of papers on these mass CND demonstrations — Michelson recalled one in 1981 at which our headline was “Time runs out in Poland, Stop Solidarity’s counterrevolution!” (Spartacist Britain no 36, October 1981). We sold over 1000 copies of that paper. The Labourite left hated us but, Michelson said, the working class knew there was something funny about Solidarność , especially because Thatcher liked it.

In early 1981 Labour faced a deep split when its right wing began to decamp. Prominent among the splitters who formed the Social Democratic Party was Roy Jenkins — who would become Tony Blair’s political mentor and can aptly be described as the godfather of New Labour. The pro-NATO/ CIA wing of the party that was led by Denis Healey threatened to split if Tony Benn, leader of the Labour “lefts”, took control of the party. We had a headline: “Labour split: NATO ‘internationalists’, Little England ‘socialists’” which Michelson said was quite prescient. However at first we drew no tactical conclusions from this analysis and when Benn ran in April 1981 for the deputy leadership of Labour against Denis Healey, our headline was “Benn, Healey: no choice!” (Spartacist Britain no 34, July 1981).

Benn was the darling of the pseudo-Trotskyists, many of whom began liquidating into the Labour Party. Michelson recalled that Workers Power did not liquidate into the Labour Party organisationally, but had the line that you must always vote Labour regardless and during the Benn-Healey division they demanded that the CIA right wing take a loyalty oath to remain true to Labour! Making abundantly clear our fundamental opposition to the Bennite camp, in October 1981 we published a four-point programme. Among its points were: “To the sham of ‘unilateral nuclear disarmament’ we counterpose the call, ‘Smash NATO! Defend the Soviet Union!’” In the context of the hunger strikes by Republican prisoners in Northern Ireland we said “Against Benn’s historical support to the PTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act], his refusal to defend the Republican victims of imperialist repression in Northern Ireland, his pro-imperialist call for UN troops, we say: No ‘democratic’ imperialist schemes — Troops out of Ireland now! Free the Republican prisoners! Smash the PTA!” We opposed Benn’s support to racist immigration controls and to import controls and we called for “five-year plans on the basis of a reorganisation of the economy through the expropriation of the industrialists and the bankers, as part of an international socialist division of labour through a worldwide struggle for proletarian rule” (Spartacist Britain no 36, October 1981).

While our necessary programmatic opposition to Benn was clear, we later recognised that it had been tactically wrong in 1981 to say there was “no choice” between the NATO/CIA-loving “internationalists” and the “little-England socialists”. We should have given critical support to Benn in order to drive out the NATO/CIA wing. For the coming period we coupled this slogan with: “Labour can betray without the CIA connection!” We sought to deepen the Cold War split and to put Benn and the “lefts” on the spot and force them to show their true colours as loyal supporters of British capitalist rule. The reconsideration of our tactics resulted in an excellent piece of propaganda, “Labour’s Cold War” (Spartacist Britain no 41, April 1982). Here we made the point that a distorted and uneven class line was being cleaved through the Labour Party as a result of the Cold War and, if the little-England Bennites won out, the Labour Party would become aberrant in the eyes of the imperialists — not least in the US — in the climate of the anti-Soviet war drive.

Benn narrowly lost the deputy leadership contest but the party remained deeply unstable. By the time of the 1983 general election, Labour was led by Michael Foot who was from the old CND “left”, yet the grey eminence behind the scenes was Denis Healey, former chancellor, who had links with the CIA going back decades. We said “Labour: No answer to Tory rampage!” While refusing to give critical support to Labour, we said: “If there are Labour Party candidates willing to make some effective manifestation of opposition to Labour’s Cold War austerity campaign, we would actively consider giving them critical support” (Spartacist Britain no 50, June 1983). We discussed sending a letter to every Labour candidate offering to give critical support, if the candidate would accept it from us — understanding what we stand for. This was intended as a test of the Cold War schism — the very idea of taking support from a Soviet-defensist organisation would have driven the right wing into a frenzy and tested whether the Labour “lefts” would buckle under to unity with the right.

We did not adopt this tactic in the 1983 election, which Labour lost so massively that Benn himself failed to retain his seat. However we did implement it in early 1984 when Benn stood in a by-election in Chesterfield. We wrote to Benn making clear what we stood for — including defence of the Soviet Union, troops out of Northern Ireland — and our demand to drive the NATO/CIA right wing out of the Labour Party. Our only condition was that Benn would accept our support. He responded to us verbally and his secretary wrote us a letter within seven days saying “he is not prepared to accept support from organisations which do not support the Labour Party”. The fact that Benn rejected our support in favour of unity with Healey was very powerful ammunition for us during the miners strike because, Michelson said, next to Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn was “God” among miners.

The miners strike of 1984-85

The final panellist, comrade Jill Morris, noted that our understanding of the Cold War split in the Labour Party prepared our intervention in the heroic miners strike. Labour’s division was mirrored within the trade union bureaucracy. This was seen in the witch hunt of Arthur Scargill at the 1983 TUC conference instigated by the WRP over Scargill’s correct statement that Solidarność was “anti-socialist”. The right wing bureaucrats condemned Scargill, while the “lefts” sat silent, sending a signal to Thatcher that the miners union was isolated.

From the very beginning we said that the strike could only be won by spreading it to other key sections of the class. The dockers went out on strike twice during the miners strike, during which time we called for a “Fighting Triple Alliance” of rail workers, miners and dockers, to shut down the country. Morris cited a passage from Workers Hammer no 145, April-May 1995, which says: “While [Labour leader Neil] Kinnock obscenely echoed Thatcher in denouncing the miners for ‘violence’ on the picket lines, the trade union misleaders either openly scabherded or refused to call out their members on strike alongside the NUM. At bottom the reason for this was political. The coal industry was a fundamental part of the British economy. Had steelworkers, railworkers, dockers and power workers refused to handle coal, the country would quickly have ground to a halt. Effectively this would have amounted to a general strike, posing the question: once the country was shut down, who was going to start it up again — the working class or capitalist class? In short, which class would rule?”

Noting that our strategic goal of splitting the Labour Party base from the top requires a base of support in the trade unions, Morris said that though our roots in the unions were very slender, we did what we could. For example we had a supporter, Patrick Sliney, in a British Leyland plant in Birmingham who fought to get scab coal blacked, for which he was fired. Examining our propaganda on splitting the Labour Party during the miners strike, Morris quoted an article from our press in 1984 which expressed it rather well:

“The Labour Party has also been divided by the deep antagonistic forces in society, they are ripping the Labour Party apart. We don’t want the Labour Party to be ripped apart by a counterrevolutionary ploy, particularly. But we do have to say that there is unity and there is unity. There’s unity behind the capitalists and their Labour lackeys and unity in struggle behind the miners. You’ve got a choice. And the left wing of the Labour Party continues to provide the choice of unity with the CIA lovers, the violence-baiters like Neil Kinnock….

“So we want a split in the Labour Party. But in this sense: not just a destruction of the Labour Party, we are not just trying to wreck the Labour Party. We want to replace it with a revolutionary party, that will not try to administer capitalism, will not get into government in the capitalist state and then do everything the Tories do.”

Workers Hammer no 64, December 1984

Throughout the strike we consistently condemned Scargill and the Labour “lefts” for maintaining unity with the scabherders such as Neil Kinnock. But in an issue of our press soon after the strike ended in 1985 we turned this condemnation of Scargill for unity with Kinnock into a criticism of Scargill for not having split to form a new party to the left of Labour. In Workers Hammer no 68, April 1985, we said that if the “lefts” had split from these strikebreakers “then today we might well have in this country 100,000, 200,000 of the best class fighters organised in a party. It would not be a revolutionary party on our programme. But it would be a party that didn’t have open scabherders in it, it would be a party without strikebreakers, it would be a party that did not welcome Lord Chapple and Lord Murray to take on the ermine robes, it would be a party without ballotmongers and violence-baiters.” As the SL/B Conference Document noted, we again raised this criticism of Scargill in a 2006 public meeting. However it is not our programme to call on Scargill to form a party, which would necessarily be based on his old Labour reformism — ie on class collaboration and betrayal. Moreover, this is contrary to what we argued in our propaganda and interventions throughout the strike.

One of the most important aspects of our propaganda, Morris noted, was that we consistently showed that the strike — the most militant class struggle since the 1926 general strike — made quite clear the limitations of Scargill’s Labourite reformist perspective. We quoted Scargill addressing a rally in Nottingham saying: “We will turn the tide and turn unemployment into employment. We will turn economic ruin into economic recovery. Above all, we will pave the way for a general election to elect a Labour government” (Spartacist Britain no 58, June 1984). Morris referred to an article which summed up our position saying: “It is not a matter of criticising one or another mistake Scargill made but of coming to terms with the fact that he remained tied to the same Labourite perspective as the [TUC and Labour leaders] Willises and Kinnocks — that the final answer for the working class is to install a Labour government aimed at defending Britain’s (decrepit) industry through reformist schemes.” The article also said:

“The NUM leadership under Arthur Scargill took this strike about as far as it could go within a perspective of militant trade union reformism, and still it lost. Why? Because militancy alone is not enough. From day one it was clear that the NUM was up against the full power of the capitalist state. What was needed was a party of revolutionary activists rooted in the trade unions which fought tooth and nail to mobilise other unions in strike action alongside the NUM. But all Arthur Scargill had was the Labour Party, and it would rather see the NUM dead than organise to take on the bosses’ state in struggle.”

Workers Hammer no 67, March 1985


Workers Hammer No. 204

WH 204

Autumn 2008


Great Power duel in Georgia

US, British imperialists sabre rattle against Russia

Russian, Georgian workers: the main enemy is at home!

US/NATO bases out of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Near East!


Quote of the Quarter

The Bolsheviks and the Caucasus


SL/B National Conference

The fight against Labourite reformism in the post-Soviet period


Panel discussion on SL/B history

Spartacism in Britain

Origins and development


Down with chauvinist compulsory English policy!

SOAS enforces racist "war on terror"