Marxist Bulletin Home Page

On Democracy

On 14 June the Campaign for a Democratic Socialist Labour Party (CDSLP) held a meeting in London, attended by a number of SLP members. As the name of the campaign suggests, the comrades involved want to establish Socialist Labour as a democratic working-class party. However, this intention was linked with the desire to make our party the object of public criticism by producing a non-internal journal.

This is a serious mistake. It means that the subjectively good intentions of many participants appeared to other SLP members as not-so-good intentions after all. Subjective intentions mean very little in politics – what counts is the actual result. Therefore the editorial collective of the SLP Marxist Bulletin produced a leaflet urging SLP members not to endorse this campaign and distributed it to party members on the day, arguing against attending the meeting.

It is obvious that such differences of opinion are a rather common feature of political debate. What made this meeting more significant, however, was the fact that a couple of NEC members also distributed a statement outside the venue. ‘Message to Members from the NEC’ (see below) was also posted to some party members. This statement made it clear that the NEC considers the CDSLP a challenge to the constitution of the SLP and, more importantly, regards comrades who attended the meeting as being in violation of the said constitution.

This is an outrageous threat, not only against supporters of the CDSLP, but against any party member who dares to challenge the constitution or disagrees with decisions made by the leadership. While the way in which the CDSLP has tried to fight for democracy in our party is seriously flawed, it has to be noted that the responsibility for the lack of party democracy lies with the NEC itself. If it had not been for the bureaucratic ‘voidings’ of party members by the NEC, the CDSLP, with their misguided tactics, would not have emerged in the form it did.

The comrades who attended the meeting of the CDSLP have been told they will be ‘dealt with accordingly’, whatever that means. To our knowledge there has never been any serious attempt by the NEC to argue with these comrades in order to change their minds . In this sense, both the NEC and the CDSLP have failed. The NEC should engage in the debate on democracy that is going on in our party and refrain from any disciplinary action in response to attendance at the 14 June meeting.

Several CSLPs and individual members, who rejected the approach of the CDSLP, have signed a ‘Statement to the NEC and SLP members on the question of Party Democracy’. This statement reiterates an old socialist principle: The struggle for an egalitarian society can only be achieved by a socialist party that is firmly rooted in the working class and whose members determine the course of the party through democratic decisions.

Socialist Labour Party

Message to Members from the N.E.C.

Constituency Socialist Labour Parties and individual members have been receiving correspondence from organisations such as "Revolutionary Platform", "Socialist Labour Information" and "Campaign for a Democratic SLP", together with "open letters" from individuals.

Many members and branches have been bombarded with correspondence from individuals – including John Pearson and Stan Keable – as well as correspondence sent from groupings claiming to be "campaign committees" acting on behalf of people whose membership application form has been unanimously declared null and void, and one person who has never been a member of the Party!

Conferences and meetings have been convened with the clear aim of co-ordinating campaigns to challenge the Party’s Constitution. A central demand of these campaigns is that Socialist Labour should become a "federal" party, thus allowing other political organisations and groupings to join – a concept which is in conflict with the central principle of our Party’s Constitution.

Any members who attends a "faction", or meeting convened by any such grouping/organisation or any individual(s) will be acting in contravention of the Socialist Labour Party’s Constitution. Members of the SLP who become involved in any of these activities with any of these groupings and individuals, or who attend meetings/conferences convened by them, are acting in violation of the Party’s Constitution (Clause II, (4) and (5), Clause III, (2)(a), (2)(b), and (3)(a), (3)(b).

Such meetings will not be tolerated by the Party. Any member who attends such meetings or becomes involved with those co-ordinating these meetings/campaigns against the Socialist Labour Party must understand they are acting in violation of the Party’s Constitution and will be dealt with accordingly.

Arthur Scargill
General Secretary