The SP (Socialist Party) is holding a special conference on 21 July to discuss issues from the conflict in the international network linked to the SP (Committee for a Workers’ International, CWI), and a split looks likely.
SP doyen Peter Taaffe has formed a faction in the CWI, “In Defence of a Working-Class Trotskyist CWI”. They contend that the Irish section has moved into “petty-bourgeois Mandelism” through its work in its feminist pro-choice campaign ROSA and an overemphasis on students.
The “Non-Faction Faction” (NFF) in the SP, aligned with the majority in the CWI, charges Taaffe with bureaucratism and being unable to relate to the new wave of left-wing and liberation movements across the world.
Taaffe’s faction has a comfortable majority in Britain, and has been able to remove NFF supporters Sarah Wrack and Claire Laker-Mansfield as (successive) editors of the SP’s weekly paper and from the SP’s Executive Committee.
Evidence for the NFF’s claims of bureaucratism comes from an email sent in error by Taaffe- supporting CWI secretary Tony Saunois to every national section revealing plans to expel Taaffe’s opponents if they convened a meeting of the CWI’s leading committee.
The history of the SP, and before it Militant, also includes antipathy to movements which fought against oppression outside of solely class boundaries.
Autonomous struggles for women’s, gay, or black liberation have been dismissed as unnecessarily divisive.
In a factional battle when Militant had hegemony on Liverpool City Council in the mid-80s, its members spread racist slanders about the Liverpool Black Caucus being “pimps and gangsters”. Around the same time, its paper published misogynistic cartoons of Margaret Thatcher.
The SP has come a long way since the 1980s, but even now it feels like much of their politics on such issues has merely been grafted on to avoid putting off all but the most backward recruits.
There is little evidence that the NFF or the Irish section have fallen into identity politics or a wholesale abandonment of working class politics. The greater fear should not be that they are openly propagating opportunist politics now, but rather that if flung out of the SP they will flail around and then descend into the opportunism which they have been accused of.
SP comrades who have been prompted to rethink should make a critical reassessment of the whole SP/ Militant tradition and the “Orthodox Trotskyist” legacy of which it is a splinter.
The Socialist Party is not the party of Lenin and Trotsky, but rather a much-downgraded version of those of Zinoviev and James P Cannon in his post-1940 phase.