Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/560/6705

From The Socialist newspaper, 10 December 2008

Book review

Socialism and left unity - a critique of the Socialist Workers Party

By Peter Taaffe

Reviewed by Steve Score

When people first become interested in socialism they often ask: "Why are there different socialist groups? Why can't we just get together and fight the common enemy?"

This desire for unity is understandable and very important because of the need to build a strong left-wing alternative, and a new mass workers' party in particular, especially now that the economic crisis is exposing the failings of capitalism to many more people.

The two biggest groups on the Marxist left in Britain are the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). It is important to explain the differences in ideas, analysis and approach.

Socialism and Left Unity - a critique of the Socialist Workers Party by Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party, demonstrates that the politics of the SWP have been a major obstacle to building a strong working-class socialist movement on a principled basis. It gives many examples of the way the SWP has operated, but also explains the theoretical and political approach that underpins the SWP's mistakes. It contrasts this with the Socialist Party's approach.

This is not a point-scoring exercise. The issues discussed in the book are vital questions: How can we rebuild the workers' movement? How should Marxists work with others? How do we raise socialist ideas? How do we approach political differences?

Peter deals with a range of issues, from the historical roots of the SWP, to their analysis of the political periods we have been through, the anti-capitalist movement, the attitude to the Labour Party, work in the trade unions, anti-racism/fascism, building new workers' parties and the internal democracy within the party.

The book shows how often the SWP has jumped from one approach to the opposite and back again. Its participation during recent years in attempts to build a viable and broad alternative to the capitalist political parties shows this.

The Socialist Party has explained that the Labour Party has changed from being a workers' party with a pro-capitalist leadership, to a completely capitalist party. This has created the need for a new, independent, working-class party. There have been a number of attempts in the direction of building such a party in England and Wales.

For example, the Socialist Alliance (SA) was initiated as an electoral alliance, with a leading role played by the Socialist Party. It was based on a federal approach, proceeding by agreement between the different groups involved.

Opportunism

When the SWP appeared to suddenly turn away from their opposition to standing in elections they joined the Socialist Alliance. They then misused their weight of numbers to transform it into an organisation under their control. Eventually they decided that socialism was electorally unpopular, and unceremoniously closed the SA down.

They then established Respect with George Galloway. But this party was not created on an inclusive and fully democratic basis. Instead of explaining the need for a party based on the working class to fight in its interests, they watered down the socialist message, concentrating instead on attempting to build alliances in an opportunist fashion.

More recently the split in Respect between the SWP and George Galloway (and the expulsion of some prominent SWP members from their party) over control of the apparatus, has resulted in a another turn in an, as yet, unclear direction.

Of course, when the political situation changes, it is important for socialists to be flexible in their tactics and change tack when necessary. However, this has to be accompanied by a discussion on how the situation has changed and what is necessary, and an honest acknowledgement if mistakes have been made.

The SWP has not done this. Their approach has been characterised by frequently putting the narrow interests of their own party before what is required to take the movement forward.

In the recent past the SWP often opportunistically dropped explicitly socialist politics when working with other groups. It is certainly important to work with other forces in a democratic fashion - something the SWP does not do - but at the same time a party should be honest in debate about political differences.

The Socialist Party continues to build the Campaign for a New Workers' Party, at the same time as clearly arguing for a programme to achieve socialism. I would recommend that all active socialists, whether members of the Socialist Party or not, read this book. The lessons contained within it can be a guide for future struggles.


Socialism and left unity

A critique of the Socialist Workers Party
by Peter Taaffe

4 introductory price if you order now plus 50p postage (standard price 6)

Socialist Books, PO Box 24697, London E11 1YDTel: 020 8988 8789

Buy online at www.socialistbooks.org.uk

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 10 December 2008:

Stop job cuts


Socialist Party NHS campaign

Save our NHS


International socialist news and analysis

Greece in widespread revolt

Queen's rep suspends Canada's parliament

Chicago workers occupy factory


Socialist Party editorial

Welfare 'reform' - fight these attacks

Crisis loans


Socialist Party campaigns

Usdaw presidential election - support Robbie!

DNA evidence - Labour's draconian laws...

Jean Charles de Menezes Coroner restricts inquest verdict

Lewisham's Greens and the BNP 'supporters list'


Education fightback

Student struggle in Spain - time of revolt

60,000 march against education cuts in Dublin

Wales - the true extent of student debt exposed


Workplace news and analysis

PCS gains steps towards settlement

Militant response needed at ex-Visteon plant to save jobs

South Wales job losses

The National Shop Stewards Network is organising a meeting for car workers and those in ancillary industries:

Unite against university attacks

Hospital trust offers pay cuts for Christmas

In brief


Environment and socialism

Water - essential of life or blue gold?


Socialist Party review

Socialism and left unity - a critique of the Socialist Workers Party


 

Home   |   The Socialist 10 December 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Socialism:

triangleSocialism Today special issue: Lessons from the Corbyn experience

triangleLessons from the Corbyn experience

triangleSocialism the Podcast: 2020 episodes

triangleSocialism the Podcast: 2018 episodes

triangleSouth Devon Socialist Party: End of the Corbyn era - What next for socialism?

Socialist Workers Party:

triangleTommy Robinson BBC demo: socialist fightback needed to undermine far right

trianglePCS Left Unity must unite on pay and elections

triangleUnison attacks Barts deal after failing to ballot their members for strike action

triangleTUSC: SWP suspends participation in England/Wales

Socialist:

triangleBradford Socialist Party: Black lives matter - How we build a fightback

SWP:

triangleOpinion: socialists must link climate struggle to power of organised workers

triangleWhy we support Chris Baugh for re-election as assistant general secretary

Socialist Party:

triangleNewcastle Socialist Party: Smash racism! Black lives matter

Peter Taaffe:

triangleSocialist Party executive committee positions

Respect:

triangleWandsworth Town McDonald's strike protest, one of six sites in South London taking action on 12.11.19. Photo Isai Priya

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

3/6/20

Football

Football in the time of coronavirus - reclaim our game!

3/6/20

Letters

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters

3/6/20

Labour Party

Socialism Today special issue: Lessons from the Corbyn experience

27/5/20

Letters

Going viral - Socialist comments and letters

20/5/20

Obituary

Obituary: Rob Crabb

20/5/20

Letters

Going viral: letters to the editors

20/5/20

Upton Sinclair

The Jungle: capitalism's remorseless attack on workers' safety and conditions

13/5/20

Letters

Going Viral: Socialist comments and letters on the corona crisis

6/5/20

Letters

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters on the corona crisis

6/5/20

Review

TV Review BBC Panorama: PPE shortage - how many lives will be lost?

27/4/20

Coronavirus

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters

22/4/20

Letters

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters

15/4/20

Letters

Going viral: Socialist comments on the corona crisis

8/4/20

Socialist Party

Labour leadership election: Starmer wins but the fight for socialism goes on

7/4/20

Coronavirus

Going viral

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999