The British Socialist Workers Party seems to be in terminal crisis. Once the largest far left group in the English speaking world, over the last several years they have played an increasingly negative role as the British left continues to try to create a political project capable of challenging New Labour.
Their opportunistic block with Tommy Sheridan helped to split the Scottish Socialist Party, who had developed a real base in the Scottish working class and won five members of the devolved Scottish Parliament. Last year the SWP helped to split the Respect project when their control was challenged.
Whatever the problems these organizations undoubtedly had and have, the SWP’s role has been one of wrecker, not builder.. We assume it will be many years, if ever, that the SWP will be able to work with the rest of the British left again. I imagine it will draw the wrong conclusions from the debacles of the last years, contract in membership then dig in its political heels and circle the organizational wagons ending up a sect.
The SWP has seen many of its most talented and honest comrades leave the party, more have fallen away to inactivity. Some remain committed to building a revolutionary organization. There are several attempts at left and revolutionary regroupment at the minute in Britain. The following proposal was initiated in the summer and has recently been brought back into discussion.
There is an imperative in Britain of building a working class alternative to New Labour. Part of this imperative includes the creation of a viable revolutionary project able to act as a pole of attraction and influence as that working class alternative is formed. This document initiated by “members of the International Socialist Group (ISG), Socialist Resistance (SR), a group of former members of the SWP and some independent Marxists” seems to be a clear headed and politically serious approach; at least on paper. I can’t claim to be very optimistic about Respect, but that is where these comrades find themselves.
I am too far away from British politics to express much more than my interest. I am not endorsing this project- it is not my place, but I know these kinds of projects are necessary. I think revolutionaries here in the US, though facing many different challenges, face the same imperatives of the class struggle as the comrades in Britain. The struggle for socialism is the prerequisite of socialism.
Part of the imperative of the class struggle, even as it plays defense, has to be the refoundation of the revolutionary socialist project and the creation of political organization necessary to act on it. Regroupment of revolutionaries is a certain component of that project.
Our self conceptions, including our collective pessimism, have to be challenged. The class struggle will not, on it’s own, solve the crisis of the left. What are we waiting for? What are we going to do about it?
An invitation to participate in the creation of a new Revolutionary Socialist Organisation
This text was voted on and passed at a meeting in London on Sunday 29th June. A Steering Committee was also elected.
The purpose of this document is to launch a regroupment process, which will culminate in a conference after a period of discussion. It registers the most important areas of agreement we have achieved at the beginning of this discussion. There are other areas, not included, which will have to be the subject of further discussion.
1. This is a proposal made by members of the International Socialist Group (ISG), Socialist Resistance (SR), a group of former members of the SWP and some independent Marxists not presently in any organisation. It is an invitation to everyone who would be interested in establishing a new revolutionary organisation based on an understanding of the need for Marxists to build a revolutionary organisation and to work for the widest unity of the working class on economic, social and political issues.
2. We propose a regroupment, based on our common traditions as active revolutionary socialists. This proposal emerges from practical collaboration over the recent period in building Respect. We also appeal to independent revolutionaries and new militants to join us.
3. We hope that a process of discussion throughout this year will culminate in a founding conference to be held towards the end of this year.
4. We have a shared analysis of the nature of class society and how it can be changed. Capitalism is an outmoded system which cannot satisfy even the most basic needs of billions of the world’s population. The further advance of humanity and the protection of the environment from catastrophe can only be achieved by the creation of a socialist society.
5. The capitalist state cannot be reformed but has to be overthrown and replaced by a workers’ state. This revolutionary act can only be carried out by the working class, the only agency that can transform society.
6. The emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself, acting as a class in its own interests. Socialism cannot be achieved from above by reformist politicians or trade union leaders. The struggle for socialism is international; the struggle of workers and the oppressed everywhere is one struggle.
7. We recognize that capitalism uses the oppression of certain social groups to divide the working class. The organisations of the working class must constantly strive to overcome any divisions by advancing the causes of these oppressed groups. We oppose all forms of oppression and defend the right of the oppressed to self-organization. We support, and will participate in, the struggles against national oppression, women’s oppression, racism and Islamophobia and against homophobia.
8. What existed in the “communist bloc” was not socialism. It was a Stalinist perversion of socialism; a dictatorship that brutally oppressed all political opposition, suppressed workers’ rights and trampled on workers’ democracy. Socialism cannot exist except with the extension of democracy so that the working class collectively takes the decisions about the future of its new society.
9. The dominant ideas of the present society are those of the capitalist class. For the revolution to succeed the most militant workers and their allies have to be organised into a revolutionary organisation which challenges and confronts that ideology with one in the interests of the new socialist society.
10. The revolutionary organisation must be part of the working class and take part in the life and struggles of the working class and the oppressed. It seeks to absorb the lessons of working-class struggles from the past and from today. It must give guidance and perspective to its members in their activity in the workplace, communities and campaigns. Theoretical study and discussion serve as a guide to the practical work of the organisation. In this way we can test our ideas in practice and learn from our experience.
11. Any revolutionary organization must be democratic, including the right to organize around minority viewpoints, but must aim to act in a unified manner. Socialist democracy is the only way to develop a genuine political leadership of the working class and its allies.
12. We believe that the decline of the Labour Party and the disintegration of its mass base present the best opportunity for many decades to build a viable alternative to the left of Labour. The signatories of this appeal have been working together as revolutionaries and with others to build such a party. We believe that the building of a united party of the working class is one of the overarching strategic tasks for revolutionary socialists in this period. The role of revolutionary Marxists in helping to build Respect over the next period will be an important one.
13. We state clearly our commitment to building a revolutionary socialist organisation, which will locate itself in working-class struggle – in the workplace, in the community, amongst the oppressed and in the broad party.
14. We are internationalists, against imperialism and war; we stand for mass action from below in the interests of the working class; we do not set ourselves apart from the working class and its organisations but seek the broadest agreement with others, using the methods of the united-front. Our aim is both to advance the interests of the class and the ideas of revolutionary socialism. To these ends we will explore the possibility of links with other revolutionaries internationally.
15. This document is intended only as a preliminary text. We invite all those who are interested in the ideas outlined above to join us in a process of discussion.
For more information or to become involved visit the Revolutionary Regroupment website or e-mail