How We Differ From The SWP And Other Groups

Too Few to Be Divided?

Two of the most frequently asked questions people have when they first get involved in Socialist ideas are: 1) How does the SP differ from this group or that group? 2) Why don’t all the socialist groups come together as one?

These are important questions, although must be answered delicately. The parties, factions, tendencies and groups on the left, nationally and internationally, are many and so it is appropriate here to look at the differences in a fraternal and honest way.

Working Together

 The most important point to make is that the Socialist Party, nationally and in Portsmouth, is not sectarian. We do work with other left wing groups in a principled way when common cause exists. For example the recent ‘Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition’ brought various groups and individuals together in a federal coalition, to fight a common campaign against cuts and for a genuine socialist alternative.

In Portsmouth we have a proud history of working with other groups as and when the opportunity arises. For examples the Socialist Students’ Society worked with Respect, Stop the War, Labour Students and People & Planet societies to coordinate the Top-up Fees campaign.

The Portsmouth Socialist Party branch took a leading role, along with the RMT trade union and the Socialist Worker’s Party in organising the ‘Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition’ in Portsmouth North, and we are currently continuing this work to build a Anti-Cuts United Front, working with the Portsmouth Trades Council.

Left Unity

These campaigns are examples of socialists coming together to fight a common cause, however the way these coalitions form is crucial to our position on Left Unity. We say that each group within a coalition must be allowed the freedom to produce their own literature and promote their ideas, while campaigning for democratically agreed goals.

We also reject the tactics of groups such as ‘Unite against Fascism’ (UAF) who are prepared to work with anyone in order to enhance their cause. This is called a ‘popular front’ and we believe this to be unprincipled, and potentially a counterproductive way to work. In contrast we call for a United Front, built on a principled class basis, bringing together socialists, trade unionists, workers and community organisations.

 It is a clear truth that when it comes to genuine socialists, we are too few to be divided, however we must acknowledge the key differences between ourselves and other groups as that is vital to understanding how we work with other groups and why we aren’t all simply in the same party.

The Differences

 The two largest groups on the left, both in Portsmouth and nationally, are the Socialist Party and the Socialist Worker’s Party. Some would argue that the Labour party or the Greens could be seen as ‘left, but as a starting point we would say that neither are genuine left wing organisations as neither wish to fundamentally transform society on a socialist basis, which after all has to be the minimum requirement for a socialist party!

The Labour party is a party of big business, with little difference between it and the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives. Some argue that the Labour party could be reclaimed – citing the link between trade unions and the party so show that it is a ‘worker’s party’ or a ‘worker’s bourgeoisie party’. Unfortunately this is not the case; the trade union leadership maintain the connection to labour, but this often in stark contrast to wishes, and interests, of the union members.

Last year 96% of CWU union workers in London said they would vote for disaffiliation, while in UNISON a recent survey showed that trade union reps said the biggest hurdle to recruiting new members is the Labour party connection! We say the Labour party cannot be reclaimed and there needs to be a new mass worker’s party, formed by socialists and trade unionists.

The Green party, often touted as a ‘socialist’ alternative is in reality as much of a capitalist party as the big three, albeit with an environmental slant. Dr Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader and the party’s first elected MP, is often keen on left wing rhetoric; however the reality is very different. On a local level the Green party have often formed coalitions with both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. This has included the Kirklees council where the Greens voted for the cuts budget!

In 2009 the Socialist Party were involved in the Vestas campaign on the Isle of Wight, a campaign to save 600 jobs and the UKs only wind turbine farm. Not only did the Green Party not get involved but Caroline Lucas’ office wrote to this branch to say she did not support the demands of the campaign and so would not attend the picket line. This is even more damming considering that the island is in Caroline Lucas’ European Parliamentary constituency!

Those two parties aside, the core differences between the Socialist Party and the Socialist Worker’s Party can be found both in our historic origins, our methods and our approach to issues facing working people.

The origins of the Socialist Party can be found within ‘Militant’, a large Marxist tendency which campaigned within the Labour party for genuine Socialist ideas. Militant later developed into the Socialist Party when it became clear that Labour was no longer a ‘worker’s party’, even in a limited sense. However the constant thread between Militant and the SP has been the automatic orientation towards the working class and this is a fundamental aspect of our approach.

Socialists believe that only the organised working class have the power to change society, therefore socialists need to orientate themselves around organised working class organisations. This is why both Militant and the SP put such emphasis on Trade Unionism and this is why we argue that a new ‘workers party’ needs to be built out of the Trade Union movement.

This orientation towards the working class is a key difference between the SP and the Socialist Worker’s Party. The Socialist Worker’s Party, while maintaining revolutionary slogans, in truth orientates towards the Middle class. That is to say its recruitment polices focus on recruiting middle class students and intellectuals.

This is partly due to the influence of the supposed ‘New Left’ which argued that following the post-WW2 economic boom the working class in western, developed nations had been ‘brought off.’ These groups then turned to other minority groups – such as gender, sexual and racial equality campaigns, as well as national liberation campaigns in the third world, to look for a new force for revolutionary change. We would argue that while these groups should be supported in their struggles, they should be part of the working class struggle, they should not replace it.

Clear examples of differences in our approaches include the Socialist Alliance, Respect/The Anti-War Movement, our understanding of the BNP/EDL, our approach to Israel, our approach to industrial work such as strikes and the recent storming of ACAS during the BA cabin crew strike.

While only the very basic points can be covered here, an in-depth analysis can be read at: Left Unity: A Critique of the Socialist Worker’s Party on the Socialist Party website

Nationally, other groups on the ‘hard left’ also include the AWL (Alliance for Worker’s Liberty), Socialist Resistance, Socialist Appeal and the Communist Party. There are also some centre-left socialists who remain in the Labour Party who believe, we say incorrectly, that the Labour party can be reclaimed as a fighting party. This includes groups such as the Labour Representation Committee, chaired by John McDonald.

The Socialist Party calls for a new mass Worker’s Party, which we believe would incorporate many different elements on the left, including all those listed above, to represent the needs of working people and solve the ‘crisis in working class representation.’ Such a campaign in Germany has led to the rise of ‘Die Linke’ (The Left) which has risen to become the third largest party in Germany.

We believe the Trade Unionist and Socialist coalition was a step towards such a party. Such a party will be run by and run for working people. Our role in such a party will be to argue for genuine socialist ideas. No doubt other groups will wish to be involved and will argue for their ideas. We welcome this.

Ultimately Marxism, as a scientific understanding of society, it is the search for truth and we are confident that no matter how many other groups we work with, as long as there are open and fraternal discussions and debates our ideas will come to the fore and a genuine programme for socialism will be adopted.


One Response to “How We Differ From The SWP And Other Groups”

  1. chris Says:

    As regard to the difference between the swp and the sp. You touch on what the sp stand for but not the swp. Anybody coming to this page is surely looking for this comparison

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