Workers Hammer No. 204
SL/B National Conference
The fight against Labourite reformism in the post-Soviet period
The Spartacist League/Britain held its 21st National Conference in August. This regular and decisive conference critically assessed the work of the section within the framework of the Fifth International Conference of the International Communist League in 2007 (see “Maintaining a Revolutionary Program in the Post-Soviet Period”, Spartacist [English edition] no 60, Autumn 2007). A central task of the SL/B conference was to review our position on the character of New Labour today as well as to examine the origins of the section and the history of our tactics towards Labour as a bourgeois workers party. The conference preparation included discussion on the market reforms in China as well as an assessment of our campaign in Britain for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal. In addition to two internal bulletins, pre-conference reading included an extensive list of our articles on the Labour Party from the early 1970s as well as early internal bulletins and other records of the origins of the section. The SL/B conference discussion benefited from the attendance of a significant number of comrades from other European sections as well as from the SL/US.
Citing a founding document of the SL/B which stated that “Marxists must take the history of their own movement seriously” (“In defence of the revolutionary programme”, 1978, reprinted in Workers Hammer no 203, Summer 2008), the 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.” A panel discussion on the pre-history and founding of the SL/B and on the development of our tactics towards the Labour Party in the tumultuous decade of the 1970s and up to and including the great miners strike of 1984-85, was a highlight of the conference. (See article page 6.)
The Conference Document noted that the period we face continues to be shaped by the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92 and the retrogression of consciousness that this generated internationally. The US and British imperialists are bogged down militarily in Afghanistan and the British military chiefs increasingly regard Iraq as a lost cause. Sentiment among the imperialists, particularly in the US, to cut their losses in Iraq is often motivated by a desire to reinforce military capabilities directed against China, the largest and most powerful of the remaining countries where capitalist rule was overthrown. The Conference Document underlined “the strategic importance of our position of unconditional military defence of the Chinese, North Korean, Vietnamese and Cuban workers states against imperialism and domestic counterrevolution” and our call for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies.
In Britain, the signature of the era of Labour in government, which is apparently drawing to a close, is the imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan which have resulted in countless thousands of deaths. With the British military overstretched in adventures abroad, its brutal operation in Northern Ireland has been scaled down and the butchers of Bloody Sunday are now marketing their expertise in “counterinsurgency” — ie backing the viciously anti-Catholic Orange statelet’s brutal police force and the Loyalist paramilitaries — as a valuable commodity for the US imperialist overlords in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At home Labour’s viciously racist “war on terror” is wielded as a club against minorities — particularly Muslims — to augment the repressive powers of the state. The “war on terror” also targets the black minority population and is ultimately aimed at the whole working class. Blacks are at least six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than are whites, and Asians are twice as likely. The hysteria being whipped up over “knife crime” is aimed at criminalising black youth, while black deaths in police custody barely even make it into the news. Britain’s chasm between rich and poor has grown dramatically under Labour, while the country has the most restrictive anti-union laws of any advanced capitalist country. Labour has also generated a climate of hostility to immigrants who face dramatically increased state repression and racist attacks. The Conference Document noted that the impending economic recession “will have devastating consequences for the living standards of the working class and poor. It will disproportionately affect immigrants and minorities who are among the poorest in society.”
To prove he is as Blairite as Blair, Brown hosted Margaret Thatcher at No 10 and abolished the “10p tax” (the lowest income tax bracket) thus increasing the burden on low-paid workers. Brown is also committed to the “Blair project” of transforming Labour into an outright bourgeois party. Regarding the transformation of Labour, the Conference Document noted that the Labour Party in Britain today is somewhat anomalous: “On the one hand, it has not severed its ties definitively with the trade unions, on the other hand, it does not act like a classic social-democratic party. New Labour today is moribund as a reformist party of the working class.”
Labourite reformism: defined by opposition to Bolshevik Revolution
The “Blair project” took shape in the aftermath of counterrevolution in the Soviet Union in 1991-92, a defeat of historic proportions for the working and oppressed masses of the entire world. Signalling his commitment to transforming the Labour Party into an outright bourgeois party, Tony Blair abolished “Clause IV” — Labour’s pretence to “socialism” — from Labour’s constitution in 1994. Blair took advantage of the fact that the industrial proletariat had suffered major defeats during the Thatcher years, the most significant of which was the defeat of the heroic year-long miners strike of 1984-85 which accelerated the process of de-industrialisation in Britain. Blair’s abolition of “Clause IV” both fed off and contributed to the bourgeoisie’s ideological campaign that “communism is dead”. This theme has been widely embraced and echoed by the reformists around the world who have been openly discarding their “socialist” facade in the post-Soviet period.
As our Conference Document noted: “Having aided the imperialist drive to destroy the East European deformed workers states and the USSR, yesterday’s ostensibly revolutionary organisations have become outright opponents of the revolutionary internationalist workers movement. These groups have bought into the predominant myth that class struggle against the capitalist order is a thing of the past; the working class is irrelevant as a factor for social change and new October Revolutions are off the historic agenda.”
In parallel to the process of transforming Labour, dramatic changes are taking place in the configuration of the workers movement and the left in other European countries, notably in France and Italy where the Communist Parties were once hegemonic. The majority wing of the old Italian Communist Party has passed through social democracy and with its fusion with Prodi’s Christian Democrats now appears to have become an outright bourgeois party. In France the collapse of the Communist Party has created a vacuum which the Pabloite Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR) is seeking to exploit. In Germany a new social-democratic organisation — the Left Party (Die Linke) — has been created through the merger of the Oskar Lafontaine wing of the social-democratic SPD with the ex-Stalinists of the PDS. Both the Taaffeites and the German co-thinkers of the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP), to different degrees, have joined it. In Greece, a “regroupment” around the Synaspismos ex-CPers has attracted much of the Trotskyoid left, while in Italy the Pabloite Sinistra Critica (Critical Left) and Fernando and Grisolia’s Partito Comunista dei Lavoratori have left Rifondazione Comunista now that it is widely discredited. The LCR is formally junking the terms “revolutionary” and “communist” from its name, which befits the practice of these reformists who long since reconciled themselves with the bourgeois order. The LCR is following in the footsteps of the British SWP which disavowed any pretence to “socialism” or even to secularism in the founding programme of the Respect coalition.
The Labourite pseudo-Trotskyists in Britain today — from the SWP to Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party, the Alliance for Workers Liberty and Workers Power and Permanent Revolution — all supported counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. This is a logical outgrowth of their Labourite programme which was defined historically by visceral opposition to the Soviet Union and loyalty to “democratic” British imperialism. The SL/B conference stressed the need to educate our cadre in the understanding that our reformist opponents’ loyalty to “democratic” British imperialism — expressed ad nauseam in proposals to pressure the Labour government, peddling illusions in the “Mother of Parliaments”, claiming that British “bobbies” are “workers in uniform” and embracing British imperialism’s armed forces as “our boys” — is not separate from, but integral to their hostility to the dictatorship of the proletariat. These Labourite opponents are firmly in the camp of the Second International which has been a handmaiden of its “own” bourgeoisie since 1914 and a bulwark of anti-Communism since the Bolshevik October Revolution of 1917. This point was forcefully made by Trotsky when he wrote:
“The Second International — and what is said about the latter applies also to its shadow on the Left, the two-and-a-half International — exerts every effort to prove to the workers that, since the Soviet government observes neither ‘right’ nor ‘democracy’, the toiling masses of Russia deserve no support in their struggle against the world’s usurers. We committed our most flagrant act of disrespect to ‘right’ and ‘democracy’, as everybody knows, by the October Revolution. It represents our original sin.”
— Between Red and White, 1922
The Labour Party was founded a century ago by the trade union bureaucracy as a “bourgeois workers party”. While saddled with a pro-capitalist leadership and programme, its membership consisted primarily of the trade unions which were an integral part of the party’s structure. The Labour Party only became nominally “socialist” in 1918 with the adoption of Clause IV. Far from being a commitment to socialism, this was a conscious ploy by the Labour and trade union leaders to dupe the working masses. Labour’s role proved vital to the British capitalist order during the tumultuous upsurge internationally inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. During the revolutionary upheavals in Britain that peaked during 1919-21, when capitalist rule was profoundly shaken, Labour’s socialist facade allowed its treacherous leaders to contain the mass struggles within the framework of the capitalist order. Clause IV’s pledge about “common ownership of the means of production” translated into illusions that socialism could be achieved through nationalisations of industry by a Labour government — ie leaving the capitalist state intact. The illusion that the interests of the workers and oppressed can be served through parliament is central to the false consciousness of the British working class historically.
Leninists and the Labour Party
The position on the British Labour Party which we have held for many years was summed up in a 1981 Tasks and Perspectives document of the SL/B which stated that:
“The Labour Party is a bourgeois workers party. Its formation at the beginning of the century was a deformed and organisational expression of independent political action by the working class separate from the open capitalist parties. The Labour Party has always been saddled with a pro-bourgeois leadership with a maximum programme of parliamentary reform. We seek to exacerbate the contradictions between the aspirations and objective interests of the working class base, centrally organised in the trade unions, and the policies and actions of the social-patriotic leadership. We wish to win the base to our programme and to the building of a Marxist party in counterposition to the Labour Party, in the course of mobilising for class struggle and through the exposure of Labour treachery by the communist vanguard.”
— “Revolutionaries and the Labour Party”, Spartacist [English edition] no 33, Spring 1982
The document further noted: “Within this strategic perspective, various tactical options are open to an intelligent revolutionary organisation, to be employed according to the circumstances. At all times we maintain strict programmatic independence from all wings of the Labour bureaucracy.”
Regarding New Labour, our recent conference upheld the position adopted in April 2002 in an IEC motion which said (in part):
“The split of the working-class base of the Labour Party from the pro-capitalist tops is not taking place in the way envisioned by Lenin through leftward motion in the proletariat, but in reverse. Tony Blair’s Christian New Labour leadership has taken the initiative to break from its proletarian base and even the trade union bureaucracy which surmounts the base. Blair has gone some ways down the road in his proclaimed project of transforming the British Labour Party into an analogue of the U.S. Democratic Party, a bourgeois party. This process is not finished and a working hypothesis that this party has been transformed from a bourgeois workers party to a capitalist party needs to be tested in the course of social and political struggles.”
Labour’s link to the unions has been integral to its character as a bourgeois workers party, a link which must be severed in the process of rendering it an outright bourgeois party. For some time now the Labour leadership’s efforts to separate the party from the unions have been stalled, mainly because Labour’s donations from wealthy businessmen are drying up and Labour is once again dependent on the affiliated unions for some 90 per cent of its funding. Since 2002 several unions have voted on disaffiliation but so far only two unions have separated — the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the RMT. The larger unions remain affiliated.
The transformation of the Labour Party is an unfinished process and is thus reversible. However our conference noted that a reversal — which would involve ousting both the Brown and Blairite cliques — is an unlikely outcome. To determine whether the changes in the Labour Party have been qualitative requires a test, which has not yet taken place. The series of strikes by the FBU which began in late 2002, during the build-up to the imperialist invasion of Iraq, may well have provided a decisive test of whether Labour remained a bourgeois workers party: the Blair government responded with a threat to send the army across FBU picket lines to seize and drive fire engines.
Long before Blair, Labour governments in the past have engaged in strikebreaking. But as opposed to an openly bourgeois party, if Labour were to actually smash a union this would mean destroying an integral part of itself. Social-democratic parties thus prefer to rely on class collaboration by the reformist trade union leaders to betray the working class in struggle rather than violent repression. This is the meaning of Trotsky’s description of the Labourite bureaucracy as the “inward policeman” which acts as an alternative to the “outward policeman” of naked state repression. When the firefighters strike was beginning to bite, then-FBU head Andy Gilchrist declared in response to threats of army strikebreaking: “Firefighters are neither prepared nor looking to hinder the armed forces.” Such identification with the armed forces as “our boys” and defence of the “national interest” is the backbone of Labour reformism. It was key to Gilchrist calling off the strike thus averting a showdown with the Blair government, the outcome of which could have decisively tested Labour’s relationship to the trade unions more broadly.
Our conference affirmed that the call to split the base from the top of the Labour Party is not applicable in the present pass. At the same time it stressed that building fractions in the trade unions is central to our strategic goal of breaking the working class politically from Labourite reformism. The Conference Document affirmed the validity today of the statement in the 2002 IEC motion that: “In the long run, to split the base from the top in a social-democratic party can not be achieved without a base of support in the trade unions.” This demands the construction of a revolutionary opposition within the trade unions, with the aim of transforming them into instruments of revolutionary class struggle, not of class collaboration as they are under their present reformist leadership.
This aim is in contrast to the reformists’ tailing of “left” trade union leaders. The SWP-built Stop the War Coalition (StWC) provided a cover for the treachery of “left” union bureaucrats such as Gilchrist and Bob Crow of the RMT by allowing them to blow hot air about their opposition to Blair’s invasion of Iraq, despite the fact that the FBU leadership buckled precisely because the firefighters strike had the potential to disrupt British imperialism’s military preparations for the invasion of Iraq. The StWC is a popular-frontist formation that shares the Labourite defence of “our boys” in Iraq and Afghanistan and which provides a safety valve for the British bourgeoisie by mobilising mass opposition to the imperialist occupation on the basis of bourgeois parliamentary pressure politics.
Arthur Scargill, the miners strike and the Labour Party
The need for re-arming the SL/B on the history of our tactics towards Labour arose from a public intervention against Arthur Scargill in London in 2006 in which we criticised Scargill for not having split the Labour Party during the miners strike of 1984-85. This criticism, which was previously raised in an intervention in Dublin and in Workers Hammer no 68, April 1985, was not our position during the miners strike. The Conference Document stated that it showed a “misunderstanding of our strategy and tactics towards the Labour Party historically” and “ran counter to what our task was: setting the base against the tops in the Labour Party”. We should have criticised Scargill for his position on the Labour Party, noting for example that in October 1984 Kinnock was elected unanimously as party leader — ie with the support of Scargill — while Scargill and Tony Benn pushed unity with this strikebreaker in the hopes of getting a Labour government, at the expense of the strike.
Scargill is often to the left of the SWP and the Taaffeites. When his Socialist Labour Party (SLP) stood candidates in opposition to New Labour and refused to give any support to New Labour in any area, we extended critical support to SLP candidates in 1997 and again in 2001. But our programme is fundamentally counterposed to Scargill and the SLP’s old Labour reformism which is based on protectionism for British industry and calls for nationalisation of industry through parliament. His hostility to our goal of new October Revolutions was summed up in his reply to us during the election campaign in 1997 to the effect that he didn’t want to hear about “Lenin and Trotsky on a hillside in 1917”.
The campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal
A session of the conference was devoted to our work in Britain to free Mumia, a black political prisoner, former Black Panther and MOVE supporter and working journalist who was framed up for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer and sent to death row. The campaign has gained us small but significant links with trade union officials and activists who identify Mumia’s struggle as their own, unequivocally say he is innocent and call for his freedom. The Partisan Defence Committee’s May 2007 rally was instrumental in re-establishing Mumia’s case as that of the world’s foremost class-war prisoner among left and trade union circles in Britain. The Scottish TUC has issued a statement of support while activists in the RMT and the CWU in London and the South East have been fighting for Mumia’s freedom over many years.
In addition to our polemics against reliance on the capitalist state, the Conference Document stressed the need to combat Labourite reformism, the dominant form of false consciousness among those union activists who support Mumia and noted that recently “the campaign has also brought us intersection with black nationalist groups in London. This means we must combat the reactionary programme of black separatism, which is based on despair of fighting for equality and integration.”
Grappling with China’s “market reforms”
The Conference Document noted that the imperialist powers have been steadily ratcheting up the military pressures on China — from US-Japanese military co-operation over Taiwan to the construction of a ring of US bases in Central Asia to the building up of the US base at Guam in the Pacific to American assistance to nuclear-armed India. Meanwhile the anti-Communist ideological campaign by the Labour government, backed by the reformist left, now targets China for everything from “human rights” abuses to its supposed “oppression of Tibet” to claims that China is responsible for “genocide” in Darfur. Gordon Brown — whose government has sought to persuade the Chinese government to invest its $200 billion dollar wealth fund in London — provocatively met with the Dalai Lama in London in the aftermath of the counterrevolutionary riots in Tibet. As we wrote in “China is not capitalist” (Workers Hammer no 202, Spring 2008): “Despite their differences, the aim of all the imperialist powers towards the People’s Republic of China is to destroy the workers state by counterrevolution.”
Since the 1949 Chinese Revolution, which overthrew the rule of the bourgeoisie and the landlords, the imperialists have been intent on restoring capitalism to China. Following the collapse of the USSR, which was aided by the Chinese Stalinists’ criminal anti-Soviet alliance with US imperialism, China has become the main target of anti-Communist imperialist revanchism. The unconditional military defence of China against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution is central to our Marxist perspective in this period. An IEC Memorandum adopted in February 2008 stated:
“The overwhelming political pressure we face is in the direction of writing off China as capitalist, which is the explicit or tacit position of most of the reformist left. A contributing factor in our own disorientation was that every aspect of the market reforms was seen as negative. In fact, the impact has been contradictory as reflected in the rapid economic growth, bringing 250 million people out of dire poverty and creating the biggest industrial proletariat in the world.”
Internal discussions on China prior to the SL/B conference focused on the section’s difficulty in assimilating the international corrective to our previously one-sided and undialectical appreciation of the market reforms in China. This corrective was codified in a motion passed at a March 2006 IEC plenum which criticised the following formulation that had appeared in our press: “It is the ‘socialist’ (i.e., collectivist) aspects that are responsible for the positive economic developments in China in recent years. And it is the market aspects of China’s economy that are responsible for the negative developments.”
The motion also noted that: “By abstracting the ‘collectivist aspects’ from the ‘market aspects’ of the Chinese ‘socialist market economy’ the formulation is at best misleading. It tends to obliterate the qualitative difference between our program for a centralized planned economy with workers democracy and the Chinese bureaucracy’s command-centralized planned economy (which included the ideological posture of autarky or ‘self-reliance’) under Mao” and concluded: “What fundamentally distinguishes the Trotskyist program from that of the Stalinist bureaucrats whether of the Mao or Deng/Hu variety is our struggle for international proletarian revolution as counterposed to ‘socialism in one country’.”
“Free Tibet”: rallying cry for counterrevolution in China
Support for the counterrevolutionary riots in Tibet in March by the Labourite reformists of the SWP, Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party, the Alliance for Workers Liberty and Workers Power/Permanent Revolution is perfectly consistent with their long-standing support to pro-imperialist counterrevolutionary forces from Solidarność to the mujahedin while the Soviet Union existed. Tailing these apologists for the “Free Tibet” movement is the dubious International Bolshevik Tendency which grotesquely advocates joint rule in Tibet with the Dalai Lama’s clique, giving the lie to its (occasional) claim to be for defence of China.
The 1949 Revolution resulted in enormous gains for China’s working and peasant masses. That includes the people of Tibet which, until the victory of the Chinese forces there in 1959, was ruled by a pro-slavery “Lamaocracy”. The “Free Tibet” cause originated with the machinations of the CIA and other imperialist forces intent on restoring capitalism in China, which would once again reduce the country to semicolonial subjugation. The call to “Free Tibet” is a rallying cry for counterrevolution and would in fact mean imperialist lordship over the Tibetan masses.
The Summer 2008 issue of the SWP’s International Socialism ran an extensive article justifying its support for the Tibet protests while freely admitting that the “Free Tibet” movement has long been funded and supported by the CIA. Charlie Hore states that:
“As tensions between China and the US have again risen, with US strategists becoming worried about Chinese economic, political and military competition, US support for some Tibetan organisations has started up again. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was heavily involved in the ‘colour revolutions’ in Ukraine and Georgia, seems to be one of the major conduits for this. In 2006, the last year for which they have published figures, they admitted giving just under $300,000 (about £150,000) to 11 organisations in Tibet”.
But Hore complains that the sums “pale into insignificance when compared to the tens of millions given to the various Afghan mujahideen groups”. He neglects to mention that the SWP supported these CIA-backed forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s — the biggest covert operation in the CIA’s history — against the Soviet Union.
Reformists who hailed counterrevolution flounder in post-Soviet climate
Many on the Labourite left deluded themselves that with the collapse of the Soviet Union they would be rewarded with unprecedented opportunities for growth but are today struggling to stay afloat. In 2006, John Molyneux outraged the rest of the SWP leadership by exposing that the party had lost thousands of members due to the post-Soviet political climate. At the same time Molyneux upheld the SWP’s support to counterrevolution and stated: “A key problem, in my opinion, was our estimation of the effects of the collapse of Stalinism. We were right to identify this as fundamentally historically progressive and to argue that internationally it created a space for genuine socialist ideas to get a hearing.” He went on to say that: “However, we seriously underestimated the extent to which it was perceived by millions, indeed hundreds of millions as the defeat of socialism” (“Why I intend to stand”, published in Weekly Worker, 5 January 2006).
The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), underwent a split in 2006, with Tommy Sheridan leaving to form the rival Solidarity following a bitter power struggle over allegations about Sheridan’s sex life. Workers Power split in 2006 when half the membership and most of the leadership in Britain were expelled and formed Permanent Revolution. Workers Power sought to “get-rich-quick” out of the “anti-globalisation” movement while the Permanent Revolution group was more interested in pressuring the Labour “lefts”. The SWP is still licking its wounds as a result of the spectacular split within the Respect coalition last year when the SWP and George Galloway fell out over Respect’s abysmal electoral performance.
We have been unique on the left in pointing out that the Respect coalition, with George Galloway and Muslim organisations — is in continuity with the SWP’s support for the mujahedin in Afghanistan and for counterrevolution in the USSR. The Respect coalition was founded by the SWP as a popular-frontist formation, which precluded us from applying tactics such as critical support in elections. Illustrating the SWP’s deep-seated parliamentarism, Respect is heavily geared towards municipal councils, seeking to emulate the Militant tendency which took over Liverpool city council in the mid-1980s. Militant’s sordid role as part of the capitalist state in Liverpool necessarily entailed attacks on workers and minorities. This provides a good example of why we revolutionaries refuse in principle to run for or take up executive offices of the capitalist state such as mayor or running a local council.
The Taaffeites are desperately seeking a “new workers party” that would amount to a version of the old Labour Party, funded and controlled by the trade union bureaucracy and necessarily reflecting the most backward prejudices in the class. Socialist Party supporters,who are a majority on the executive of the civil service union, the PCS, voted for a sell-out deal on pensions in 2005 that means new entrants will have to work five more years to qualify for a pension. Scandalously, this union organises immigration cops. The Socialist Party and virtually the whole spectrum of the Labourite left cheered the prison guards’ strike in August last year, in line with their ludicrous notion that cops and prison guards are “workers in uniform”. The Socialist Party has repeatedly hosted the general secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA) in meetings and seeks to sign up POA representatives alongside its own sell-out leaders of the PCS to their campaign for a new “workers” party.
Such support for the repressive forces of the capitalist state is an integral part of Labour reformism which has been used to dupe the British working class into supporting the racist capitalist order for over a century. It goes hand in hand with the Taaffeites’ pandering to backward consciousness, especially in regard to Northern Ireland where this organisation has refused to call for British troops out and has conciliated Loyalism to the extent of hosting former Loyalist paramilitary thug Billy Hutchinson in their meetings. This is also in keeping with old Labour’s record which includes sending the troops to Northern Ireland in 1969.
Down with the reactionary “United Kingdom”
The SL/B was founded in the spirit of Karl Marx’s understanding that Ireland is key to the British proletarian revolution. Comrades in London Station in the mid-1970s worked out our unique application of the Leninist approach on the national question to interpenetrated peoples in Northern Ireland, published as “Theses on Ireland” in Spartacist [English edition] no 24, Autumn 1977. Regarding our record of opposing Blair’s imperialist “peace” deal for Northern Ireland, the Conference Document stated: “The very idea that the blood-soaked British imperialists were bringing ‘peace’ to the ‘warring tribes’ is the vilest hypocrisy.” The Catholic minority remains oppressed and the society today is more segregated along communal lines than it was when the troops were sent there in 1969. Northern Ireland has historically been used as a testing ground for state repression in Britain — the vilification of Muslims in Britain today echoes the treatment of Irish people in the 1970s and ’80s.
Contrary to the illusions peddled by reformists in the Labour government’s public inquiry that began over a decade ago, and some three dozen years since Bloody Sunday, the British state has not even admitted that the British Army shot and killed 14 innocent Catholics in Derry that day. Although the British Army’s operation there has formally ended, a garrison of 1500 British troops remains. We continue to call for British troops and bases out now!
The document also noted that the “United Kingdom” is centred on “the archaic institutions of British imperialism based on the monarchy, House of Lords and the established (Protestant) churches”. The “UK” is based on English domination — centred on the “Home Counties” of southeast England — and vehement hatred of the oppressed Scottish and Welsh and Irish Catholic nations. The SWP’s refusal to oppose the monarchy within the Respect coalition is a logical outgrowth of their Labourism which historically disavowed republicanism and the revolutionary tradition of Oliver Cromwell, the forerunner and most farsighted founder of English capitalism, and of the Chartists — a working-class insurrectionary movement which was vehemently opposed to the monarchy.
Hatred of Labour runs particularly high in Scotland, as seen in the recent loss of Labour’s seat in Glasgow East to the Scottish nationalists. English chauvinism has been on the rise — as reflected in the prevalence of the flag of St George that was long associated with the fascists — a phenomenon that is tacitly accepted as harmless by our reformist opponents. The arrogant English-centred Westminster parliament has contributed to the growth of the bourgeois nationalist parties in Wales and in Scotland where the Scottish National Party now controls the Assembly in Edinburgh. As we stated in our press:
“The Spartacist League upholds the right of self-determination for Scotland — as well as for Wales — which means the right to form independent states and implies also the right not to separate. Our attitude is grounded in intransigent opposition to all forms of nationalism — first and foremost the dominant English chauvinism. It is possible that the pervasive anti-Scottish chauvinism of the British bourgeoisie could drive the Scots towards separation. However, given the lack of decisive national differences in either language or religion, we do not presently call for independence for Scotland and Wales but advocate a course of common class struggle against the British state .
“In counterposition to the reformists of all stripes, we seek to build a multi-ethnic revolutionary workers party that fights to overthrow Westminster rule and replace it with a workers government. Abolish the monarchy, the established churches and the House of Lords! We fight for British troops out of Northern Ireland and for an Irish workers republic within a voluntary federation of workers republics in the British Isles.”
— “Down with English chauvinism! Brown’s government: racist, anti-working-class, anti-Scottish!” Workers Hammer no 199, Summer 2007