OBITUARY FOR THE SLL (1968)

Submitted by dalcassian on 25 September, 2015 - 7:48 Author: S M

Anyone who followed the discussion oa
the 'morality' of heart transplants will
know that defining death isn't all that
easy. Sometimes a heart may beat, or a
nerve twitch, even after death, for all
practical purposes, has come.
So too with revolutionary organisations.
They may grow sick and catch one of a
variety of diseases, such as sectarianism
or opportunism. An organisation which
fails to fight off the sickness correct-
ly will gradually succumb to it, until
at some point - often difficult to pin-
point - it will have to be pronounced
dead for the purposes of revolutionary
activity.
That the Socialist Labour League has
been seriously ill for a long time is
beyond dispute. Has anybody seen it up-
and-about lately? We hear rumours of
small, private enterprises such as youth
clubs and discotheques - but wherever
the going is strenuous there is no sign
of it. It had a completely orderly demo,
such as would gladden (CPGB Secretary)
Gollan himself, outside the French Embassy in London -
side by side with a militant one which
it shunned in fear of contact. And this
fear has kept it away from united action
with other revolutionaries on each and
every issue of trade union and political
life.
For 5 years now it has proclaimed that
the Big Crisis of capitalism has come.
But, unable to expose the vulnerable
minds of its youth to any contact with
reality or other revolutionaries, it has
reduced its own role ever more totally
to siniple, abstract propaganda - pro-
cessing political events as fodder for
'revolutionary' comment, increasingly at
the expense of participation in struggle.
Now that a serious crisis for capitalism
really appears to be upon us, it is a
good time to take the pulse of the SLL,
and test its reflexes.But alas, there are
no reflexes left.

One of the clearest manifestations of
the crisis of capitalism was Powell's
speech, and the response to it. And on
July 7th the Mosleyites tried to consol-
idate their gains with a march,They man-
aged to bring together 400 backward people
to spread their racialist poison,
1,500 marched in a counter demonstration
organised by MCF and supported by a var-
iety of other groupings. There were
YCLers, GPers, Trotskyists of various
different groupings, anarchists, Maoists,
VSC supporters, etc. etc. In fact, every
group alive on the left was represented,
and even some (like the RSL manyana
Trotskyists) that are only barely alive.
But not the SLL - the 'Alternative
Revolutionary Leadership' ; that is, un-
less you count 3 or 4 NEWSLETTER sellers.
The militants on the march (about 1,000)
decided to make a stand and try to drive
the fascists off the streets. They felt
that this counter-demonstration should
not be a mere token - "drive them back
into their holes!" Unfortunately the
police cordon protecting the racialists,
with their shouts of "Red rabble", was
too strong: the fascists, though out-
numbered and threatened, marched.
And where wore the 'thousands of young
workers' from the discotheques,who could
have tipped the balance through the cor-
don? Where was the SLL hard core?
It could hardly be that the SLL dis-
agrees, in the abstract (everything is in
the abstract.) with the need to drive
the racists off the streets. Racism is
the one issue on which the SLL has a re-
cord second to none: as much as a decade
ago it brought a storm around its head
by proclaiming the need to organise wor-
kers' defence squads against the race
rioters in Notting Hill. In the series
of clashes involving Jordan and Mosley
in the late summer of 1962, the SLL took
a revolutionary line and came out with
headlines like this one (1.9.62): STOP
MOSLEY THIS SUNDAY. Recalling the Battle
of Cable Street in which workers stopped
the fascists marching in 1936, the front
page article concluded:
"The job of the
London labour movement this Sunday is to
stop fascism. There can be no equivocat-
ion on this point. Appeals to the Govern-
ment and the Home Secretary will not
stop them. Only the organised working
class of London can do this.
This Sunday, in London's East End, the
labour movement must take another step
in the campaign to crush these groups
before they can start their drive ag-
ainst the organised labour and trade un-
ion movement."
But nowadays, as readers of the NEWSLET-
TER's strictures on the great recent
demos on Vietnam will know - this sort
of activity is 'adventurism', part of
"Tariq All's Circus". And while reiter-
ating platonic anti-racism, they extend
these attitudes and their concomitant
boycott even to struggle in the streets
against fascists and racists.
Their absence on July 7th ranks in our
eyes as the final clinching piece of ev-
idence that the SLL is stone dead, in-
capable of playing any serious role in
tho big battles of the class which are
coming. In fact, as these battles loom
ahead, tho sectarian aloofness and prop-
agandist passivity of the SLL becomes
daily ( or twice-weekly) more blatant.
This organisation, through which in our
opinion the 'revolutionary stream' in
the British labour movement flowed for
many years, still moves, twitches, goes
through certain motions and produces
ritual noises. It has a good - comm-
ercialised - press, able to run almost
indefinitely on its own'free enterprise'
momentum; this allows it to produce an
impressive paper. But for the revolution-
ary needs of the British labour movement
it is stone dead.
There are many people around who have
yet to see this and act accordingly to
build a new movement on the politics
which the SLL sectarians have abandoned.
Events like July 7th. should spur such
people to the long overdue job of giving
the SIX a certificate of death. The evo-
lution of the class struggle already has.
Albert Catte

Workers Fight 8, August 1968