The odious Daily Mail has an article today on the 'mad, sad world' of Arthur Scargill, the National Union of Mineworkers' Honorary President for life. Readers wanting a reasoned, Socialist reflection on the Miners' Strike of 1984, free from any mention of the Stalinist Scargill, would do well to click here. The same article makes a passing reference to 'the obscure Socialist Labour Party'. We shed some light on this pro-capitalist outfit below.
On 4th November 1995 Arthur Scargill presented a discussion paper to a meeting of trade union activists and other campaigners in London. In this paper Scargill called for the establishment of a Socialist Labour Party, ‘on the basis of class understanding, class commitment and Socialist policies’ (Future Strategy for the Left, November 1995). On 4th May 1996 the Socialist Labour Party was launched. What led Scargill to resign from the Labour Party and set up a new party was Labour’s decision in 1995 to amend its constitution by replacing Clause 4 with a new aim which committed it to support ‘the enterprise of the market’, ‘the rigour of competition’ and ‘a thriving private sector’. He is right to say that New Labour cannot be supported by those who call themselves socialist.
Clause 4, however, was never a definition of socialism. What it was - and was meant to be by the Labour leaders of the time who drew it up - was a commitment to nationalisation, or state capitalism, to be achieved ‘for the workers’ by the actions of the Parliamentary Labour Party. It was a rejection not of capitalism as such, but only of one institutional form of capitalism (private enterprise) in favour of another (state enterprise). Production was to continue to be for the market and workers were to continue to work for wages, only this was to take place under the direction of the state. The Fabian, Sidney Webb, who was mainly responsible for writing the constitution and its Clause 4, would have been horrified to learn that this was regarded as a ‘class commitment’.
Ideologically, the new SLP is more obsolete than the old De Leonist SLP in Britain, founded in 1903 on an industrial unionist policy until its effective demise in 1921 when most of the members joined the newly formed Communist Party. At least the old SLP had a better grasp of the way the capitalist economy functions, and would never have deluded themselves, as Scargill does, by claiming that a ‘British government’ could abolish unemployment ‘even within a capitalist society’ (Guardian, 15/01/96). The new SLP represents the same old statist reformism of the past. We’ve seen it and it doesn’t work