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SLP Political Education School
The Socialist Labour Party East and West Midlands Regions held a Party School over the weekend of 13-14 February 1999 to introduce participants to the principles of Marxism. There were sessions on the question of `What is capitalism?’, `What is socialism?’, `Imperialism today’, `Social-democracy and the labour aristocracy’ and Ireland. Each session started with a 30-minute presentation, after which the participants divided into workshops to discuss the issues that had arisen. The debates were then brought back to a plenary session before going on to the next topic. Some of the most important issues raised revolved round the attitude one should take to current struggles. For instance, what should be our demands in the face of the threat of closure of Britain’s last shipbuilders on Teesside?
Arthur Scargill on the Importance of the Forthcoming Elections
As testimony to the importance attached by the Socialist Labour Party to political education, the General Secretary Comrade Arthur Scargill attended the party school for the whole of Sunday afternoon, when he addressed participants on the importance of participation in the forthcoming elections – for the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the various local Councils, all of which take place at the beginning of May 1999, and the European parliament in early June. He was very pleased to report that whereas the NEC had considered contesting 2 of the 5 regions in the Welsh elections and between 4 and 6 of the 8 regions in the Scottish elections, local activists had insisted on increasing this. In Wales at least 3 regions will be contested and in Scotland all eight will.
After Comrade Scargill toured Scotland the week before the School, it was also decided to contest the European elections in Scotland. All over England also SLP activists are showing their anxiety to stand candidates in the European elections. When the party had decided to contest 4 regions – the West Midlands, London, the North West and Yorkshire and Humberside, activists became worried that they were being excluded. Comrade Scargill made it clear, however, that the party had certainly not decided that candidates would not stand in other regions. This was up to local activists to decide.
Comrade Scargill went on to say: “
In the last week we have been informed that the BBC has conceded that the ruling it issued with regard to Wales and Scotland has been rescinded and the Welsh and Scottish SLP have been given a 5-minute party political broadcast. In Scotland the fact we are contesting 8 regions puts us in a better position than if we contested only 6. The party political broadcast slots on the four days before the election will go to Labour, Scottish Nationalists, Conservative and Liberal, but the fifth day will be ours.
“The capitalist media who love parties other than ours are giving a lot of space to the Socialist Party (ex-Militant), but none at all to us. But last Thursday John Humphreys in a peak listening spot said it was obvious that the SLP was the only alternative to Labour for those who want to vote socialist and that it is having an impact far greater than anticipated. They invited onto the programme one of our members whom they hoped would be less articulate than others, i.e., Nigel Bell from Yorkshire. They were out of luck because Nigel Bell said John Humphreys was right and that all other parties were a sham and told John Humphreys that if he had any sense he would vote for us as well.
“Wherever we put on meetings response is forthcoming. There has been a mass exodus from the Labour Party in North East Redcar which has formed the basis for the local CSLP, which is now one of the largest in Britain. The Deputy leader of Falkirk council has resigned from the Labour Party and has become the leader of our party in Scotland. A Selby councillor joined the SLP last week. In addition a number of trade unions are affiliating.
“Anyone in these circumstances who thinks we should be spending our time having internal discussions about the internal working mechanisms of the party has to be living on another planet. After June we can do what we want, but until then our work is more than cut out.
“As for the Socialist Workers’ Party, these people go round saying that standing in elections is the road to nowhere. But then they saw what was happening and did a U-turn. They are now going to stand candidates because people are talking about us as the only party capable of gaining mass support, and they want to oppose that”.
Comrade Scargill went on to demonstrate that there was a very good chance in the West Midlands of winning a seat in the European parliament now that proportional representation has been introduced.
Inspired by Arthur’s rousing words, comrades from the East and West Midlands there and then finalised their full list of candidates for the European elections. East and West Midlands comrades must also be congratulated on the excellent organisation of this event. Good food was provided, participants from all over the country were accommodated in comfort, all practical arrangements proceeding without any hitch.
There was general consensus that a 2-day school could only be a starting point for a programme of political education, and that all comrades should form groups in their local regions for regularly studying classical Marxist texts. It was thought that it would be a good idea to start with the
, going on to such texts as
Wages, Price and Profit, Wage Labour and Capital
(both by Marx), Engels’
State and Revolution
. If people read these together, this is bound to generate discussion which will help with the understanding of the texts in question.