I disagree with much of what Bob Goupillot has written in his article, Which route for political working class unity in Britain E&L 3. I sympathise with the reasons given for Cymru Goch’s resignation from the Welsh Socialist Alliance in the letter published alongside Bob’s article. I particularly agree where they write,
We are unable to compromise our socialist republicanism indefinitely.
Therein lies the problem with Socialist Alliances in England and Wales. It’s obvious, even the SSP has problems with republicanism, as outlined in Allan Armstrong’s article, Republicans
celebrate the jubilee, in the same issue. He states that Alan McCombe’s comrades in the ISM haven’t got the republican message despite Tommy Sheridan using the dreaded
R word three times at the SSP Annual Conference in Dundee.
As a communist and republican, if I lived in Scotland, I would personally be in the SSP, because it’s the largest and most politically advanced radical organisation in Scotland, with any sort of commitment to republicanism, even if a wee bit removed from the Scottish Workers’ Republic at present. This said, I find it quite breathtaking that Bob can make such a sweeping statement, that he thinks all individual socialists and socialist organisations should be in the Scottish Socialist Party or the Socialist Alliances in England and Wales.
Leaving aside the question of whether or not the SSP is a party or a united front alliance, involving the SWP and other politically autonomous organisations, it’s worth remembering and recording that, the Scot of greatest socialist republican and communist renown, John Maclean, refused to join the Communist Party of Great Britain, when all around the vast majority of revolutionary socialists, communists and best trade union militants in Scotland and Britain flocked to it at the time. Whether he was politically right in doing this or not, he obviously felt the CPGB was not republican socialist or communist enough and neither were some of its leading lights. So it is possible to be a (even great) socialist republican or communist, or dare I say it, a smaller organisation and not be in what might appear to be the obvious or
leading political organisation or party.
Bob also seems to think that the centre of revolutionary political gravity in Britain is to be found in Scotland and the SSP. This
scotocentric attitude is most clearly seen when he states,
Again Scotland was in the lead, in reference to struggle against the poll tax. It was in the
lead at one time because the Tories and British Establishment were afraid to try the poll tax out in Northern Ireland and used Scotland to test it before taking it south of the border. Many Scottish workers, people and organisations did a tremendous job of fighting and building opposition to the hated poll tax. But it was the Trafalgar Square Riots which saw it and Thatcher off in the process. It was a truly international achievement in which English workers and anarchists had a big say.
I think the centre of revolutionary activity, organisation and struggle is still by far to be found in Northern Ireland within the working class republican nationalist
communities of resistance. These people are politically suppressed and controlled by a combination of left, right and centre pro-Agreement forces. They are subject to continual physical attack and bombardment by those from the most extreme reactionary force in British politics, Ulster Loyalism, often in collusion with the British state. Yet they battle on! These communities and their leaders have vast experience and are the only ones amongst the working class in the UK struggling and sometimes dying for republicanism and national liberation, fighting and resisting the British state, its army of occupation and its paramilitary police force.
Unless we, in the rest of the UK, learn from and link up with these
communities of resistance, leaders and organisations fighting against the consequences of the Agreement, along with any workers from the other side of the political divide and build one big militant, republican united front, then there is no future for socialist republicanism or socialist republics in Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England. No country, no people, no movement can do it alone.
key to the British revolution (to coin a phrase!) and the socialist political unity of the working class is republicanism. This means especially the struggle, or struggles for republicanism with its militant political challenge to the British monarchist state, its loyal institutions such as the British Labour Party and the TUC and all its political supporters and left apologists.
Any and all serious moves towards this will need to be accompanied by United Front Republican Socialist Alliances, with the objective of forming Republican Socialist Parties in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. It needs a federated England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales-wide umbrella organisation to link and coordinate internationally. Where the main political emphasis is on militant republicanism, this can only mean one thing in the context of the British monarchist state – abolish the monarchy (mind you they are doing quite a good job of that themselves at the present but need a helping hand!), the Crown Powers and the UK state and replace these with socialist republics.
This republicanism will provide the distinctive political cutting edge and must be very firmly attached to the socialist content of such alliances. Otherwise, as we’ve all seen and experienced,
socialism on its own, with its many divisive political varieties and organisations,
means all things to all men and women and whatever any particular individual or organisation wants it to. Debating and getting a common agreement and understanding of what socialism is, along the way, would help enormously!
There can be no socialist political unity of the working class in Britain or Ireland unless our class eventually struggles as one social force against the British state and for socialist republics in Ireland and the nations which go to make up the increasingly fragile looking United Kingdom. Only political struggle can unite us politically – one struggle, one road, one revolution, one united working class.
By the way, I’m no John Maclean, but neither am I in the Socialist Alliance in England. Republican Socialist Alliances, yes, but then I’m still a communist, a republican and trade union militant and not a bad one of each I hope! In comradeship.