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Open Letter of Resignation

4 March 1998
Arthur Scargill
General Secretary, SLP

Dear Arthur,

This letter is the joint resignation of the undersigned comrades from the Socialist Labour Party.

As supporters of the Marxist Bulletin, we have always declared our support for the aims on which the SLP was founded – to build a party capable of destroying capitalism and instituting socialism. We have participated fully in party discussions on how to achieve this aim, and in building the party as a step towards that, for over two years.

Your break from the Labour Party and call to form a new party was a courageous step forwards. It opened up a political space in the British workers' movement and contained the potential for a real break from the Labourism that has long handicapped our movement.

Since then, however, you and other members of the SLP leadership have systematically set out to destroy the potential which the creation of the SLP represented. You have imposed your own programme on the party. You have set up a maze of petty, contradictory and impractical organisational obstacles to a dynamic internal life – based on a constitution which the membership has never had a chance to vote on, or even properly discuss.

At the party congress last December this process came to a head. The congress voting structure, based on tenuously established CSLPs, was overwhelmed by a sudden and undemocratic bloc vote which rendered the political views of every constituency activist in the party virtually meaningless. We were expected to endorse the constitution and the leadership's arbitrary rulings without discussion. It was a tragic moment for the working class when the majority of delegates at the congress did exactly that. We can no longer be part of this process.

We no longer believe that building the SLP is a step towards a socialist society. The SLP in its present form is a barrier to the British working class building a party that can really struggle for our interests. We cannot take responsibility for this. We cannot continue to recruit good comrades to this fiasco. We cannot continue to sell a newspaper which endorses this.

We find ourselves in a position where we are no longer proud to describe ourselves as members of the SLP.

Since the congress we have published an issue of the Marxist Bulletin analysing events at the congress. We have spoken to a wide range of SLP activists from across the country and across a spectrum of political views. We find that many of the principled militants who joined the SLP are leaving in disgust. Others retain their membership but are sorely disappointed in their party and have little hope for its future.

We say to those militants that remain in the SLP: comrades, you are wasting your time. The party was worth something once, but that potential has been destroyed. We have a better chance of building a mass working-class party that can fight for our interests if we are outside the straitjacket of the SLP.

Many past and present members of the SLP will play an important part in the future of the British workers' movement. But the SLP is no longer the arena in which they can do so. Marxists, and all those committed to a socialist future, must look elsewhere for joint activity, discussion and debate.

The need for a working-class alternative to Blair's Labour Party is stronger than ever. The need for a party with a Marxist programme that can lead the working class to victory is an absolute necessity. The Socialist Labour Party is neither.

Supporters of the Marxist Bulletin will be establishing a group outside the SLP. We will be working for the same objectives and arguing for the same programme as we did inside the SLP. We look forward to continued work with any comrades who wish to build a real, revolutionary, alternative to Labourism, and with broad layers of individuals and groups on specific issues where we have agreement. We will engage in and encourage the process of political debate the SLP has stifled – the programmatic struggle necessary for the future of our class.

Socialist greetings

Ian Dudley
former President, Dulwich & West Norwood CSLP

Barbara Duke
former Secretary, Islington North CSLP

Alan Gibson
former Secretary, Streatham CSLP

Gary Henson
former Secretary, Hampstead & Highgate CSLP

Christoph Lenk
former Secretary, Dulwich & West Norwood CSLP