From Militant to the Socialist Party
By Peter Taaffe
Part One: 1995-97 — Time for a new party
This book is a sequel to The Rise of Militant, covering the history of Militant, now the Socialist Party, from where that book left off at the end of 1995 to 2007.
Our original intention was to produce one volume covering the period from 1995 until today, 2017. However, once we began to assemble, sift and write about this period it became obvious that it would not be possible to compress the colossal events, and our role in them, into one book.
After all, this period encompassed the after-effects nationally and internationally of the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Russia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. This put its stamp on the whole political character of the era which followed. The disintegration of hated Stalinism was also unfortunately accompanied by the dismantling of the planned economies, which had previously been a progressive factor for the world working class in its struggle against rotted capitalism, despite the bureaucratic mismanagement by the privileged elite.
Part two: 1997-98 — the Socialist Party is formed
By the mid-1990s, the pro-capitalist ideological counter-revolution was in full swing. The class struggle, which the bourgeoisie imagined could somehow be magicked away, remained but perhaps at a less intense level. It was a struggle to maintain the thread of genuine Marxism in the teeth of the campaign in favour of the ‘market’, which appeared to be all-powerful. Capitalist ideologues touted it as the only system capable of allocating goods and services to humankind.
Given this barrage, ours was a small voice which could only aim to reach small circles of workers and youth who were able to withstand the ‘magnet’ of capitalism. We have to remember that Britain and the world were in the midst of a boom, albeit with the colossal disparity of wealth maintained and widened.
This necessitated a change, not in fundamentals but in the public face of our organisation.
Part three: 2000 — A New Millennium
The New Year marked both a new century and a new millennium. Millions were out on the streets throughout the world. For a short moment the world experienced genuine human solidarity as TV carried the joyous global celebrations. Of course, the powers that be, the capitalists, used this occasion to extol the benefits of the system. The so-called free market was the best means of delivering humankind’s future:
“The world, in short, is becoming a better place... Capitalism is broadly accepted worldwide as the least bad way of organising economic activity.”
But the Observer also noted: “The gap between the incomes of the rich and the poor in the advanced democracies is widening and the disparity in wealth is extraordinary... Nor is that all.
The disparity of income and wealth between countries is also becoming insupportable. More than a billion people live in abject poverty, their collective income no more than 600 of the richest men and women on earth.”
Part Four: 2001-03 — War in Afghanistan and Iraq
2001 was an election year when the record of all parties, particularly the governing party, would be examined and tested. As was usual, The Socialist opened it with a perspectives article for Britain and the world.
We wrote: “Eighteen months ago, George W Bush was told by an economic adviser that the US was heading for a ‘painful adjustment’ (read recession or slump). Bush’s reaction was: ‘If you’re right, I’m not sure I want this job [the US presidency!]’.”
In the event, Bush did stand for office – and stole it from Al Gore, the inept Democratic Party candidate, through blatant electoral fraud worthy of a banana republic and a legal coup d’état by the Supreme Court.
Part Five: 2001-05 — The War at Home
There were two wars being conducted at this stage in Britain and worldwide. One was in Iraq and the other was the continuous social war of capitalism against the working class, its past gains and organisations.
This second war was orchestrated in Britain by New Labour, with Tony Blair the general of the capitalist ‘army’. We made the point in Socialism Today:
“In all capitalist wars the government of the day invariably bangs the drum of ‘national unity’ as a means of mobilising the population for its war aims. Sure enough, Britain’s official parliamentary ‘opposition’, the Tories, have fallen in behind the Blair government with almost military precision, appropriate for a party now led by an ex-army junior officer [Iain Duncan Smith (IDS)].”1
Part Six: 2004-07 — Workers Fight Back
The temper of the working class in Britain in 2004 was indicated by the series of strikes or threat of strikes in the previous year.
The firefighters inflicted a partial defeat on the government’s attempt to renege on the agreement which ended their dispute. Local government workers had been in action, embittered by what they were forced to accept in reduced wages and conditions.
One indication of the situation developing in Europe and on a world scale, to some extent, at this stage was an opinion poll in East Germany where 51% opted for ‘socialism’ as a better system. Germany was suffering at this stage from a calamitous economic and social situation.
This was the atmosphere in which the Labour Party conference took place in September where violent jockeying for positions ensued.