The SDP split from Labour

    Socialist Party executive committee member Ken Douglas sent the following letter to the Guardian on 20th July 2016 in response to an article by Andy Beckett on the 1981 split from the Labour Party:

    Andy Beckett lists some surface similarities between the 1981 ‘gang of four’ split from Labour and the situation today (The split decision, 20th July), but there are differences between then and now which are far more profound.

    The most significant is the 20-year experience of New Labour. It was not for nothing that the former Tory deputy prime minister Geoffrey Howe said of Margaret Thatcher that “her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two”, as Labour became another party of big business.

    Labour under Blair, Brown and Miliband was ideologically and organisationally, and in working class people’s diminished perception of it as ‘our party’, a different organism to that which existed in 1981.

    Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory, a fortuitous but welcome consequence of rule changes (the ‘Collins review’) designed to finally dilute to insignificance the role of trade unions within the party, created an opening to roll back the New Labour transformation.

    But now the establishment is striking back and the next two or three months will decide which of the two-parties-within-one will be able to claim the Labour Party brand – while the other, inevitably, sets out on its own.

    The Socialist Party, formerly the Militant, is firmly on Jeremy Corbyn’s side, as we supported the struggle against the capitalist establishment ‘entrists’ within the Labour Party in the 1980s, whatever the outcome of the battle that has now been joined.

    Ken Douglas, Socialist Party executive committee