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A letter to Arthur Scargill

open letter to all SLP members

25 February 1997

Dear Arthur,

I was disappointed to read your comment in the Morning Star of 3 February:

"Contrary to the report carried in Saturday’s Morning Star, the SLP has never intended to contest and will not be contesting London’s Brent East constituency in the General Election, and the person named as the SLP candidate in that report is not a member of our Party."

This effectively implies that it would be wrong for us to stand a candidate against Ken Livingstone, the phoney left Labour MP in Brent East.

I am registered to vote in the Brent East constituency, although I no longer live in that area, and I have always made it clear that I have no intention of voting for Ken Livingstone, whether or not there is a Socialist Labour candidate. I would hope that the party will support me in this. In the recent debates in the party over our attitude to Labour, I have been arguing that we should give no support to any Labour candidate, even the supposed left-wingers of the Campaign Group.

It is not true that we "never intended to contest" Brent East or any other constituency in the UK. The West London branch did in fact consider this seat, along with various others, over the course of many discussions on election strategy, eventually deciding not to target this particular constituency.

In Future Strategy for the Left, you argued that our party would be set up with "a commitment to fight every parliamentary seat in Britain". I support this commitment. Although we are still too small to achieve it at this election, we must choose our targets purely from the point of view of how best to advance the interests of the working class and socialism. No Labour ‘left’ should be able to count on immunity from an SLP challenge. It is only lack of resources that restricts us.

Socialist Labour should not give support to elements in the Labour left unless they have done something real to deserve it. If Ken Livingstone is prepared to sign a joint statement with our party denouncing Labour's manifesto commitment to keep Thatcher and Major’s anti-union laws as treason to the working class and to actively support real defiance of these laws such as that of the Liverpool dockers, then perhaps we could advocate voting for him.

He would be quickly de-selected and bundled out the door by Walworth Road/Millbank if he did so! But there is very little chance of him risking that. Instead his record is one of opposing the formation of Socialist Labour since the very early days of our existence, attacking us as ‘nutters’ and as somehow doing the work of MI5! Before the Party was actually founded, he even moved for your expulsion from the Socialist Campaign group, for the ‘crime’ of seeking to found a new, socialist, party.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened in Brent East, the dispute over the membership status of Stan Keable only highlights the urgent need for a democratic appeals procedure to be set up to consider all cases where membership is in question. Such questions should be discussed within the party, not in the Morning Star.

But this kind of question should not dictate our general election policy. We must be clear. We give no support to Ken Livingstone, any more than to any other so-called left-winger who refuses to publicly denounce the betrayals of Blair and his gang of yuppie Tory clones. If you and other public figures in Socialist Labour were to emphasise this point strongly in and around the election campaign, we would be much better placed to set ourselves up as a real alternative to the Labour Party.

We are an independent working class party, not a mere pressure group on the Labour left, or we are nothing.

With socialist greetings

Barbara Duke
Islington North