Not Waving, RA Vol 3, Issue 5, Feb/Mar '99

The SWP 'Action Programme'

THE SWP has a long tradition of creating new campaigns out of nothing in an attempt to recruit new members and convince the current ones that their organisation is 'involved in the struggle'. The impetus for the 'Action Programme', their current campaign, lies in Socialist Worker's analysis of the 1997 general election as a 'class vote' which would create 'a crisis of expectations' when Labour didn't live up to their promises. There are two problems with this scenario, the first being that it was the middle classes who voted Blair into power, and those from the working class who did vote Labour, did it with no expectations. Secondly, Labour never promised anything but more of the same, which they have delivered. To bridge the real crisis of expectation amongst their own members who were expecting a 'fightback' against Labour, the SWP has been forced to create an issue around which they can recruit, which in turn will 'prove' they were right.

The 'Action Programme' that the SWP proposes is yet another rehash of that staple of reformism: 'The British Road to Socialism' devised by the Communist Party of the 1960s, later by Militant in the 1970s and more recently by Scargill's Socialist Labour Party.

'Stop all closures and nationalise companies. Create jobs by cutting hours-for a 35 hour week with no loss of pay. For wealth distribution to the poor-£4.61 per hour minimum wage. Tax the rich. Increase welfare spending-cut the arms bill. End the Tory policy of privatisation. Full union rights. State control of international trade and commerce to combat speculation. Work for all-create jobs on full pay', blah, blah, blah...

So ever since the election Socialist Worker has been vainly trying to conjure up the phantoms of resistance and anger to Labour but to no avail. It is true however that a lot of the 'left' in the Labour Party are peeved that Blair is doing exactly what he said would, when he was in opposition, and it is this layer that the SWP is aiming at:
'At the monthly meeting last night it was proposed and seconded that Hallwood branch Labour Party would support the demands of the 'Action Programme. Our MP is aware of our decision and I should add that the resolution was passed unopposed. Fraternal greetings to our Socialist Workers Party comrades.' A letter from Ronnie Williams, chair of the Labour Party ward in Hallwood, Runcorn, Cheshire. (Socialist Worker, 10.12.98)

In essence the 'Action Programme' is pandering to the ideas of the old left. As Julie Waterson put it in Socialist Worker, (13.11.98), "The demands of the Action Programme connect with the 'Old Labour' ideas large numbers of workers already hold. One rail union rep in London said the 'Action Programme' was 'common sense.'" We may be on the verge of a new century but the SWP are still pushing the discredited ideas of the current one. If Labour won't keep the old policies going, then the SWP will shoulder the burden itself. Without a trace of irony, comrade Alastair proudly stated at the recent SWP conference, "The first group of people I asked to sign [the Action Programme] was a group of pensioners. One said, 'That's what Labour used to argue in the 1950s. The aims of the 'Action Programme', though laudable in an abstract sense, are the epitome of the SWP's bankrupt politics and cynical recruitment techniques. In the SWP conference report, they say: "The Action Programme is about helping to build a climate which can lead to resistance to factory closures, to occupations and to a fightback against attacks on working class people."

In the current situation where we have the lowest level of strikes this century, it is absurd to think that workers are going to spring into action when the SWP start waving their 1950's style Labour party programme at them. If anyone apart from Old Labourites does notice them, it will only be to confirm the view that they are a bunch of losers. But as long as they recruit enough new people to keep the show on the road, the SWP Central Committee will be happy. Despite the SWP,s long history of making student campaigns out of nothing, because the working class will have to be involved this time, the smart money is on them making nothing out of this one.

Colin O'Brien

Reproduced from RA Vol 3, Issue 5, Feb/Mar '99