Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/364/5986
Open Letter To Sacked Liverpool Dockers
REPRESENTATIVES OF two groups of Merseyside workers - the 47 surcharged Liverpool councillors of 1983-1987 and the sacked Liverpool dockers - initiated a local campaign last February as a step towards building a new mass party of the working class.
The labour movement and community activists who assembled were from different political traditions and parties but unanimously adopted a statement of intent. Socialist Party members among the 47 councillors sought assurances that no one was expected to abandon their own programme or beliefs and this was accepted by all involved.
Recently, however, the sacked dockers led a move to prematurely introduce a party constitution. This contains a time limit, beyond which, everyone involved has to abandon their existing organisations and publications.
This constitution was opposed by the 47 group at a specially organised 'constitution sub-committee' of the campaign and the meeting ended with an equal number of votes for and against it.
The sacked dockers then decided to proceed with the launch of a new centralised party, the United Socialist Party (USP), based on their proposed constitution, without taking the issue back to a general meeting of the campaign.
In response to this action, the following open letter was sent to the sacked dockers by the 47 group:
Dear Jimmy, Terry and Mickey,
A number of the Liverpool 47 have considered your invitation to attend the founding meeting of the USP. We were first of all surprised that, as part of the body that founded the original campaign, we were not involved in the discussion in which you arrived at your decision. We also understood that there would be a further meeting of the general body to consider the way forward.
However, we have carefully considered your proposed constitution and the conditions of membership and, regretfully, we have decided not to participate.
The reasons for this decision are that we believe that there has been a misunderstanding between us on how to proceed with the massive task of forging a new party of the working class.
Our original concept was that of a campaign in which we would appeal to the trade unions, community groups, students, shop stewards committees, in fact all sections of the working class involved in struggle. The campaigning body would be all-inclusive and pluralistic, and, as the campaign developed ongoing consideration would be given to a name and to the type of organisation that would best reflect the interests of the working class.
This federalist approach, we believe, was generally acceptable to those who attended the launch meeting addressed by Dave Nellist. It is clear now that this strategy is not acceptable to you, although there was no suggestion at the launch that a centralised party would be proposed at this early stage.
We would not expect any organisation to give an undertaking that they would be required to dissolve in twelve months or even two years. Is this not a re-run of the Socialist Labour Party and the Socialist Alliance?
We also believe that before deciding on the character of the new party, a major discussion should have taken place involving all participating bodies and individual members after a period of campaigning activity when we would have been in a position to judge how the movement had developed.
We note and fully endorse your remarks that this decision will in no way fracture the fraternal relations we have enjoyed over a period of thirty five to forty years when mutual support has been a watchword of workers' solidarity here on Merseyside.
We wish you the best of luck and hope we can continue to work together in any future activities that seek to defend working people in struggle. Given the intention of the Blair government to continue with its policies of kowtowing to the capitalist class, that struggle is bound to intensify in the coming period.
As we believe that members who sign up are entitled to an explanation, can we request that you bring this letter to the attention of your meeting or, if you consider it appropriate, we can send a speaker.
Paul Astbury, Frank Mills, Tony Mulhearn and Harry Smith, surcharged Liverpool councillors
In The Socialist 2 October 2004:
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