Peter Taaffe


Peter Taaffe

Peter Taaffe (born 1942) is the general secretary of the Socialist Party of England and Wales and a member of the International Executive Committee of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) which claims over 35 sections in countries around the world.

Taaffe was founding editor of the Marxist "Militant" newspaper in 1964, [ [http://www.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/ead/325col.htm Jimmy Deane's] archive minutes.] and became known as a leader of the Militant Tendency, an organisation which was a significant part of the political scene in the UK during the 1980s, and was well known for its uncompromising ‘hard left’ stance. Taaffe was expelled from the Labour Party in 1983, along with other members of the "Militant" editorial board, Ted Grant, Keith Dickinson, Lynn Walsh and Clare Doyle.

He was influential in the policy decisions of the Liverpool City Council of 1983-87 [Derek Hatton, "Inside left", p32] , in the formation of the Militant Tendency's policy in relation to the Poll Tax in 1988-1991 [ Tommy Sheridan, 'A Time to Rage', p45] , and prominent in promoting the Militant Tendency's 'open turn' from the Labour Party in the late 1980s, becoming general secretary of the Socialist Party in 1997.

Background

Taaffe is from a low-income working-class background in Birkenhead, on the Wirral peninsula in Merseyside. He first joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, before joining the Labour Party, where he was attracted to the radical element in the Liverpool Labour Party. In an interview with the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The Party’s Over’, Taaffe gave a few biographical details:

cquote|Shaun Ley - "Why was Liverpool so important in the development of Militant?"

PT - "I come from a working-class background. It was an area of a high degree of poverty, and still is unfortunately.

"It is also a seaport with a very radical tradition. It has a distinct character. Marxism and Trotskyism, the Communist Party always had a strong base there.

"It was an area of low-paid workers, not a majority of really very high-paid like other areas. Manchester, for instance, in the north-west, was more high-paid.

"There was also a militant tradition, and I came into that tradition, first in my case, in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and then in the Labour Party (UK). In the Labour Party I discovered radical, socialist, Marxist ideas and in the course of discussion and debate I accepted those ideas." [Shaun Ley interviewed Peter Taaffe for the BBC Radio 4 programme "The Party’s Over" at the end of 2005 and broadcast in February 2006. Only a fragment of Taaffe’s comments were broadcast. These remarks were transcribed from the interview kindly supplied by permission of the BBC, and published by the Socialist Party at http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/2006/446/militant.htm]

In Liverpool, the militant tradition to which Taaffe refers was can be traced to a founder member of the Communist Party (Albert Houghton) who had "long battled with the Stalinists" [ 'The War and the International', Bornstein and Richardson, p5] forming a basis for Trotskyism in Liverpool before the Second World War.

"I came into contact with "Socialist Fight" in 1960" writes Taaffe. [The Rise of Militant, p10] "Socialist Fight" was the newspaper of a small group of mainly (but not entirely) industrial militants in Liverpool going by the name of the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL), and led by Jimmy Deane and Ted Grant.

Taaffe considered the ideas they defended to be significant. He "does not subscribe to the view that the struggles of small groupings are of no historical significance." [Taaffe, Peter, "The Rise of Militant", p9.] This small group supported the ideas of Leon Trotsky, who had opposed the rise of the Stalin-led elite in the Soviet Union and its theory of "socialism in one country", and who proposed that genuine Marxism, followed by Lenin, had always argued that only the working class in the advanced capitalist countries could lead a revolution to establish socialism. These were the ideas to which Taaffe subscribed.

Taaffe argues that "There is a long tradition going right back to the 1930s and Trotsky himself, of Trotskyist groups and organisations which endeavoured to find a base within the labour movement and working class." [ The Rise of Militant, p9] When Taaffe joined this group, "Ted Grant and the Deanes (Jimmy, Gertie, Brian and Arthur), had been involved in the Trotskyist movement for decades."

This was at the time of the Clydeside apprentices’ strike of 1960. This strike spread to Merseyside and elsewhere, involving "upwards of 100,000" young apprentices, ['The Rise of Militant' p20 ] and radicalised new layers of youth, some of whom came into the orbit of Trotskyism (Taaffe cites Ted Mooney, Terry Harrison, Tony Mulhearn and others.)

Ted Grant, with Jock Haston and others, had played an essential role in re-orienting the followers of the ideas of Trotsky at the end of the Second World War, in the period of relative prosperity and stability which opened up. [Bornstein and Richardson, 'The War and the International', pp176ff] In the 1950s Grant had been editor of "Socialist Fight", but the relatively affluent period had been difficult and membership was continuing to fall. By 1964 "Socialist Fight" had ceased publication. [Speaking at the 1984 Militant Rally which celebrated 20 years of the "Militant" newspaper, at the Wembley conference centre in London, Ted Grant says "Socialist Fight" had "ceased publication for a time - and we intended to publish it – it was in duplicated form and we intended to publish it in printed form". "Militant Rally of 1984" (Part two, afternoon rally, 60 mins) at [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/videos2.htm Socialist Party historic videos] , also on DVD, published by the Socialist Party 2007.)]

Peter Taaffe and the 'Militant' newspaper

In 1964, Taaffe writes that the "youth supporters of Militant" drew on their experiences gained during the 1960 Clydeside apprentices’ strike in "seeking to organise and mobilise the Liverpool apprentices. Ted Mooney and I played leading roles, together with Harry Dowling and Dave Galashan, in organising an apprentices' strike in one factory, English Electric, on the East Lancashire Road." About 20,000 of the 70,000 engineering apprentices downed tools in total. ['The Rise of Militant' p20-21 ] . By this time the second issue of the "Militant" had come out.

Earlier in 1964, Ted Grant, Liverpudlians Jimmy Deane (who was National Secretary) and Keith Dickenson, Ellis Hillman, John Smith and others on the executive of the RSL decided to launch the " Militant" newspaper "without complete unanimity" Taaffe writes. ["Rise of Militant" p17. Jimmy Deane was National Secretary until 1965. Before his death he made his minutes of these meetings available. cf http://www.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/ead/325col.htm]

Peter Taaffe, who lived in Liverpool at that time, was appointed editor, and Roger Protz, who lived in London where the paper was to be produced, and who had experience working on a magazine, was appointed technical editor. A business editor (S Mani) and sub editors were appointed. [Jimmy Deane's minutes of these decisions. In op cit http://www.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/ead/325col.htm] "I was elected as the first editor of Militant in 1964," writes Taaffe, "and the only full-timer in 1965, with Keith Dickinson working with me as an invaluable unpaid 'part-timer' for the paper from 1965." [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/2006/450/mp9.htm]

Taaffe's task was to change the whole approach of this small group towards the working class – to speak in the language of the "Labour and trade union movement".

In 1964, with the election of a Labour government, and for the period following into the late 1980s, Taaffe believed this tactic was correct. But looking back, Taaffe came to believe that in the early post-war period "an independent tactic would have been much more effective, with work concentrated in the trade unions." [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/2006/450/index.html?id=mp9.htm Militant pioneer dies]

"Drive Out the Tories" was the headline of the first issue of the Militant, with an article written by the business editor, S. Mani. Below the Militant logo were the words "For Youth and Labour". Inside, above the Editorial, was printed: "Militant. Editor: Peter Taaffe (Walton Young Socialists). All correspondence to the business manager: S. Mani". The addition of the "Walton Young Socialists" indicated the significance with which Peter Taaffe and the Militant viewed both young socialists themselves, and their organisation. With Peter Taaffe in Liverpool, Protz, Keith Dickinson, Ted Grant and others did most of the work on the first few issues.

In 1965 Taaffe was able to move to London, and was immediately faced with the loss of both Jimmy Deane as national secretary and Roger Protz as technical editor of "Militant". He became full time national secretary as well as editor of the "Militant", despite a serious shortage of money: "I was compelled first of all to sleep on the floor of a supporter in Balham... once or twice spending sleepless nights in the entrances of subways". ["The Rise Of Militant", p11] Eventually, the group became known by the name of the paper, and was either referred to as "Militant" or the "Militant Tendency".

Many of Peter Taaffe's major signed articles in "Militant" during the first few years were on international topics: the Congo, Dominica, Latin America, Vietnam, Rhodesia, China, bearing witness to Taaffe's interest in international affairs. In Issue no 16, in May 1966, perhaps to coincide with the international working class celebrations on May Day, Taaffe's article led the front page with the banner headline 'Internationalism the Only Road'.

In September 1965, Militant issue no.9 ran a major front page article by Taaffe under the banner headline: "Nationalise the 400 Monopolies". This was the first instance of Militant's distinctive demand by which it was clearly identified within the Labour and Trade union movement - the demand for the nationalisation of usually a specific number of multinational companies, which were said to control 80 percent or more of the economy, under workers' control and management, and the establishment of a socialist plan of production. Demands of this nature in the Militant are considered 'transitional demands', following the tradition established by Leon Trotsky and his followers. A "Militant" resolution of this form was passed at Labour Party national conference in 1972 by "3.5 million [block] votes to less than 2.5 million". [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/militant/mil2frame.htm?ch7.htm "The Rise of Militant"]

Expulsion from the Labour Party

In the 1980s, after a period of growth in the 1970s, the Militant Tendency became the most prominent and influential Trotskyist organisation in Britain. Its successes and set backs are outlined in two substantial books by Peter Taaffe: "The Rise of Militant" and "Liverpool - A City That Dared to Fight" (with Tony Mulhearn.)

The growth of Militant resulted from various factors, including its decision to work in the Labour Party [ [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/historic/index.html Marxists and the British Labour Party ] ] , its leadership of the struggle of Liverpool City Council in 1983 - 1987, [ [http://www.liverpool47.org/ Socialism on Trial: Liverpool City Council 1983 - 1987] ] its prominence in the trade unions such as the civil servants union CPSA, where Militant supporter John McCreadie won the General Secretary's position (only to have it overturned) [ [http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2003w27/msg00277.htm Marxism message, Huge left victory in PCS union (Britain) ] ] [ [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/militant/ch31.htm] ,] and its widespread support within the Labour Party, ["In the early to mid-eighties, we had fifty to seventy delegates to the Labour Party annual conference, and we dominated many of the key debates. By 1987-88, this had been reduced to between thirty and forty delegates, and is currently down to a small handful. This has not come about because of any deliberate withdrawal from work within the constituencies. It reflects the decline in activity within the CLPs and the witch-hunt against our comrades." [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/main/f3-2.html Marxists and the British Labour Party, "For The Scottish Turn: Against Dogmatic Methods", 1991] ] particularly amongst the Labour Party youth section, the Labour Party Young Socialists. [ The Labour Party Young Socialists had for a long time elected Militant supporters to all the LPYS national committee places, and sent its delegate to the Labour Party NEC. In 1988/1989, when she was 17, Hannah Sell, now deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party, was the last representative of the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS) on the Labour Party's National Executive Committee. [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/pamphlets/cnwp/] The action against the LPYS, as well as the witchhunt, was a factor which led to a decline in the Militant's Labour Party support from about 1985. ]

During this period, the Labour Party under Michael Foot and especially Neil Kinnock moved to purge Militant from the party. In 1983, Peter Taaffe, Ted Grant, Keith Dickinson, Lynn Walsh and Clare Doyle, were expelled from the Labour Party, in an expulsion of the editorial board of "Militant" (the leading members of the Militant Tendency).

A year later, speaking at the Wembley Conference Centre to several thousand supporters celebrating 20 years of the Militant, Taaffe highlighted the media attention now fixed on the Militant. Speaking about a "marvellous article" in the "Daily Mirror", by now under the ownership of Robert Maxwell, he said:

Taaffe reports on a GCE A level examination question, "'Discuss the ideas of the Militant Tendency' - we hope there'll be many people who took that paper sitting in the audience today". His speech contrasted on the one hand the determination showed by the miners in the UK miners' strike of 1984–1985, and the Liverpool victory of the previous year under the leadership of the Militant Tendency, and on the other the "five years of defeats" inflicted on workers as a result of poor Labour and trade union leadership. [Militant Rally of 1984 (Part one, morning rally,) at [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/vids/videos2.htm Socialist Party historic videos] , also on DVD, published by the Socialist Party 2007.) Peter Taaffe is referring to the period beginning with the victory of Thatcher in 1979.] .

At Labour Party conference in 1985, the fury of Kinnock’s attack on the Militant-led Liverpool City council was shocking to many on the left. Eric Heffer MP walked off the stage during Kinnock's speech, and later commented "Mr Kinnock's attack on the Militant-led Liverpool City Council had shocked him”. [http://century.guardian.co.uk/1980-1989/Story/0,6051,108249,00.html] In "Liverpool: A City that dared to fight" [ http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/liverpool/l18.htm "Liverpool: A City that dared to fight",] p328.] written by Taaffe and Tony Mulhearn in 1987, Taaffe characterised Neil Kinnock in this way: “The bourgeois recognized early that Kinnock’s role in attacking Liverpool and the miners was an attempt to sanitise the Labour Party, ridding it of all that ‘socialist nonsense.’” Taaffe goes on to predict “an enormous recoil towards the left” within the Labour Party. But this prognosis was overtaken by the profound changes which took place in the Labour Party.

Decisive moves against the Labour Party Young Socialists after the 1986 Labour Party conference decision to re-organise the LPYS, had begun to undermine Militant’s vital base there, and marked the beginnings of the "long-term decline" in Labour's membership ["One of the central lessons of the general election is that Labour did best where it had an active campaign, and that is much easier with a large party membership." - Labour's general secretary Larry Whitty Speech at the press launch of Seyd and Whiteley's "Labour's Grass Roots" (Oxford, 1992), June 1992, after the party's defeat in the same year. Quoted by Charlie Kimber in Issue 61 of International Socialism Journal, Published Winter 1993. Cf also the BBC report, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6209399.stm] ] which the left attributed to embittered workers tearing up their party cards. Bob Parry, the [Liverpool] Riverside MP, denounced Kinnock as the "biggest class traitor since Ramsey MacDonald" according to Taaffe. [ Peter Taaffe [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/militant/ch28.htm "The Rise of Militant",] p269]

In 1988, 7000 attended a Militant rally in the Alexandra Palace, and Peter Taaffe began assessing with the Scottish Militant members the prospects of battle around the government's Community Charge () legislation. But for the forces Taaffe and the leadership of the Militant had rallied, the prospects for the Militant in the Labour Party were dismal. The re-election of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1983 and 1987, the defeats of the miners in 1985, of the print workers in 1986-7, and of the Liverpool City Council in 1987, and the ferocious witchhunt of the Militant supporters significantly reduced working class militancy in the period after 1987, which was reflected in the falling membership of the Labour Party, and the corresponding fall in support which the Militant received in the Labour Party.

In fact it was Grant who had argued in "Problems Of Entrism" (1959) [http://marxist.net/openturn/historic/index.html] and reprinted in great secrecy by the Militant in 1973 with an introduction by Peter Taaffe, that it was correct to leave the Labour Party under certain circumstances, as indeed the British Trotskyists who were in the Labour Party before the Second World War had done.

Taaffe's 1973 Introduction to this document says it is "rightly considered as a key document of the tendency" [" [http://marxist.net/openturn/historic/intro.htm Introduction to the 1973 publication of "Problems of Entrism"] ] . Grant's words encapsulated the conclusion that was being gradually drawn by the members and leadership of the Militant – too slowly, Taaffe argues. “Militant was slow to draw all the necessary conclusions from these developments” [Peter Taaffe "The Rise of Militant", p344 ]

The Liverpool struggle 1983 - 87

In the four year Liverpool struggle, Taaffe was closely involved with developments, discussing with close friends and leading Liverpool Militant supporters, such as the former print worker Tony Mulhearn. [Derek Hatton, Deputy leader of Liverpool City Council says "the man who has had the greatest political influence on my political thinking, and on the way in which we shaped our policy in Liverpool, was Peter Taaffe." "Inside left", p32] Mulhearn co-authored with Taaffe the 500 page book "Liverpool - A city that dared to fight". He was President of the Liverpool District Labour Party during these events, in which the Liverpool City Council declared it was "Better to break the law than break the poor", agreed an illegal budget, and built 4,800 houses and bungalows, and improved 7,400 houses and flats (amongst other works), before the 47 councillors were surcharged and removed from office [http://www.liverpool47.org/] .

Their opponents however claimed that Liverpool was in chaos. At the 1985 Labour Party conference Labour leader Neil Kinnock became famous for his impassioned denunciation of the Labour-led Liverpool City Council. The speech had many airings on television, and was still topical when it was replayed by the Labour Party in its party political broadcast during the 1987 general election campaign. Commentators expressed great praise of the speech in programmes, articles and columns throughout the media. In the 1987 election, the Labour Party was again defeated in a landslide, the Conservative's overwhelming majority reduced slightly from 143 to 102.Taaffe argues that until 1986 the Militant still had widespread support amongst the soft left in the Labour Party: "On 2 January 1986 even David Blunkett warned Kinnock that he could not expect the support of the 'soft left of the Labour Party if he embarks on a purge of the Militant Tendency after the current inquiry into the Liverpool District Party'." Blunkett continued:

Taaffe comments "However, he did not heed his own advice once the Inquiry had met." " [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/liverpool/l19.htm Liverpool - A City That Dared to Fight] " p358.

Taaffe wanted to take the Liverpool battle towards a split with the Labour Party at that stage. In the interview for the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The Party’s Over’ Taaffe makes the following remarks:

The Liverpool District Labour Party, which Taaffe says in the same interview had a very large attendance of 700, was suspended by the Labour Party in 1986. Thus Taaffe here indicates that he argued for defying the ban, which would have been in all essentials a split from the Labour Party.

The Poll Tax 1989 - 1991

At an April 1988 “one-day conference with delegates from every area of Scotland where Militant had supporters and influence” ["The Rise of Militant" p312] in Glasgow, which was attended by "Peter Taaffe, Militant's National Leader, and introduced by Bob Wylie, then Militant's leader in Scotland", Tommy Sheridan writes: "The conference was indeed fateful." This conference decided to adopt the tactic of "mass non-payment" of the Poll Tax, and the "building of a Scottish-wide network of local anti-poll tax unions and regional federations" - a strategy which was clearly in tune with large swathes of the population. [Tommy Sheridan, 'A Time to Rage', p45.] In fact Prime Minister John Major subsequently reported that 17.5 million people had either not paid or were in serious arrears [Danny Burns, "Poll Tax Rebellion", p176] just before abolishing it.

Anti Poll Tax Unions were set up around the country, and brought together on an all-Scotland and then an all-Britain basis. These bodies, which brought Tommy Sheridan to prominence and are described in detail in Taaffe’s 'The Rise of Militant', had to be built outside, and essentially in opposition to the Labour Party, which was implementing the Poll Tax at local level, and expelling Militant supporters, such as Militant supporting Labour MP Terry Fields who refused to pay the Tax.

During this period of mass struggles the Militant had played to a wide audience. The Liverpool struggle and the Poll Tax struggle of 1989 - 1991 were significant working class struggles. In 1984 the Liverpool struggle had forced the British government into a temporary retreat, causing apoplexy in some of the media. "The august "Times" (11 July 1984) thundered: 'Danegeld in Liverpool'." writes Peter Taaffe in "Liverpool - A City That Dared to Fight", chapter 8 p151 [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/liverpool/l9.htm] . The Poll Tax non-payment campaign has been widely credited for causing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s downfall. The BBC, for instance, reports: "The unpopularity of the new charge led to the poll tax riots in London in March 1990 and - indirectly - to the downfall of the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the November of the same year". The headline of this 'On this day' retrospective is "1990: One in five yet to pay poll tax" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/14/newsid_2495000/2495911.stm] (See also Poll Tax Riots.) Peter Taaffe argues that:

The 'Open Turn'

From 1987, differences between, on the one hand, Taaffe and others on the executive committee of the Militant and the CWI, and Grant and his supporters on the other became apparent.

The decisive issue between these two leaders and their supporters arose in 1991. It centred on whether the group should take an "open turn", initially called the "Scottish turn", which meant founding an independent political party outside of the Labour Party, or whether it should continue with entryism. Taaffe and the majority in Militant supported the "Scottish turn" and the creation of Scottish Militant Labour whilst Grant and a minority opposed it. These became known as the 'Majority' and the 'Minority' positions, and both the Majority and the Minority produced documents which were printed together and circulated. The documents of the 'Minority', and those of the 'Majority' are both presented here: [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/index.html Marxism and the British Labour Party - the 'Open Turn' debate] .

The dispute arose first around the situation in Liverpool and then in Scotland where the Militant Tendency had become very prominent. Electoral prospects in Scotland looked promising. Tommy Sheridan fought two elections while in prison, where he had been incarcerated for his defiance of the Poll Tax. He took second place in the Pollok constituency at the 1992 General Election, finishing ahead of both the Conservatives and the Scottish National Party with 6,287 votes. A few weeks later he won the Pollok ward on Glasgow City Council. [ [http://www.scottishpolitics.org/scot03constit/g07.html Candidates and Constituency Assessments, Glasgow Pollok (Glasgow Region)] ]

The ‘Open Turn’ debate took place essentially between April and October 1991. In April 1991 the Militant executive body decided to support the "Scottish Turn" as it was initially termed. [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/militant/ch44.htm "The Rise of Militant" p433-4] . Very shortly afterwards the dispute broke out.

A special national conference was organised in October 1991 in which the two factions presented their arguments. A series of quite substantial documents were printed. In each document both factions presented their arguments, now online. [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/index.html] . Between April and October 1991 discussions were held at branch, district and regional level with speakers from both factions taking part. At an all-London meeting, for instance Ted Grant addressed a packed meeting to respectful silence, as did a speaker from the majority, but failed to gain the support of the meeting. At the October 1991 conference the majority gained 93% of the votes. There were no more meetings of this nature, and no more joint documents were produced.

In January 1992, the majority leadership claimed that the minority was intending to split from Militant. Peter Taaffe published an extended editorial in the Militant (24 January 1992) entitled “A parting of the ways” which announced that following the "Scottish turn" decision at the special conference in October 1991, Tommy Sheridan had been put forward as "candidate for Glasgow Pollock in the approaching general election."

Taaffe reminds the reader that the past ten months had been one of "profound debate" culminating in the special October 1991 in which the majority had overwhelming support. Many opponents of the 'Scottish turn' will remain loyal supporters of Militant, Taaffe predicts, but immediately after the special conference, Ted Grant and his group took steps to set up their own, rival publication, established "their own small premises and their own staff and are raising their own funds. We regret Ted Grant has split in this way. He made a vital contribution...”

Grant and his leading supporters claimed they were expelled, and reconstituted themselves as the Socialist Appeal tendency, after its paper, and Scottish Militant Labour eventually became the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). [A debate took place between 1998 and 2001 in which the leadership of the Scottish section of the Committee for a Workers’ International proposed a change in the political character of the Scottish section. The leadership of the SSP eventually broke away from the CWI. Cf [http://www.marxist.net/scotland/index.html Party, Programme, Reformism and the International - the 'Scottish debate'] The SSP had gained several MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, but the SSP split in 2006, with Tommy Sheridan forming [http://www.solidarityscotland.org Solidarity - Scotland's socialist movement] .]

"A parting of the ways"

In the major Militant editorial [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/other/editorial.htm "A parting of the ways"] (January 1992) and in the document [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/main/f3-4.html Two Trends: Political Roots of The Breakaway] of the same date, as well as in his book "The Rise of Militant", Peter Taaffe identifies, in addition to the disagreements over the question of the "Open turn" a number of issues which had arisen.

There were, firstly, political disagreements over a number of important current events, economic, national and international (for instance Black Monday (1987), Russia, Afghanistan and South Africa). [Peter Taaffe, " [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/militant/ch34.htm "The Rise of Militant"] p328, p445] .

Secondly Taaffe accuses Grant of being "never prepared to enter into a dialogue. Ted effectively claimed a right of political veto" over the executive committee of the Militant. [ [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/other/editorial.htm "Militant" editorial, 24 January 1992, "A parting of the ways"] ]

Thirdly there was, Taaffe argues, a difference of views over the achievements of the last ten years. "They claim that over the last ten years Militant has relegated theory and moved towards activism. Incredibly, they dismiss as "activism" the outstanding interventions of Militant supporters in the miner's strike and the Liverpool council battle...Above all they relegate our successful leadership of the anti-poll tax movement which defeated Thatcher." On the contrary, counters Taaffe, it is Grant and his followers who have fallen into "dogmatism" and betray an atrophy of thought: "The former minority are political dinosaurs. They operate with outmoded formulas which no longer apply... an absolutely dogmatic, black and white, undialectical approach towards political phenomena, both in Britain and on an international scale." [ [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/main/f3-4.html Two Trends: Political Roots of The Breakaway] ] .

Lastly, Taaffe says that Grant "publicly asserted his views against the majority of the editorial board on crucial issues, [which] threatened to have a disorientating effect on some of our supporters". [ [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/other/editorial.htm "Militant" editorial, 24 January 1992, "A parting of the ways"] ]

One disagreement over current events was over 'Black Monday' - a sharp fall in the international stock markets in 1987. Grant believed a worldwide slump would arise from the fall of the stock markets. "From a capitalist point of view at best this will be the worst post-war slump, but it is possible that it will be worse than the slump of 1929-33". [ Militant 30 October 1987] Whilst Grant had the support of Alan Woods and Michael Roberts, he was opposed by Taaffe, Lynn Walsh, Bob Labi and what was to become the "majority". Here was first clearly delineated the dividing line that was drawn between the supporters of Grant and Taaffe. Taaffe writes that the discussion on the executive was "very sharp." [The Rise of Militant p 447]

Taaffe argues that "To other members of the Editorial Board it was clear that the major capitalist states, especially Germany and Japan, were stepping in to finance a stabilisation of the world financial system. This, we argued, would allow the boom to continue for a time, postponing a recession and other problems into the future. This was what happened." [ [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/other/editorial.htm "A parting of the ways"] ] Despite the disagreements, Grant proceeded to publish his views in the Militant. Looking back in 1992 Taaffe argues that Grant should have been challenged in writing. [ [http://www.marxist.net/openturn/main/script.htm?3-4-3.htm 'Two Trends: The Political Roots Of The Breakaway'] ] Such a challenge would have meant the formation of factions in 1987.

A second issue was the approaching crisis of Stalinism. Taaffe and the majority believed that the restoration of capitalism was possible in the Soviet Union. Grant disagreed. In fact in the same article on 'Black Monday' Grant added his view that "Any illusions in Gorbachev changing anything fundamental, will be shattered by the attitude of the Moscow bureaucracy to this crisis." The collapse of Stalinism was, Taaffe counters, "the end of an epoch", which led to capitalist triumphalism. [For instance, Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History and the Last Man"]

Taaffe and the Socialist Party

The Taaffe-led majority argued that the Labour Party had become a thoroughly bourgeois party which no longer represented the working class. Today, as the Socialist Party, it campaigns in the trade unions to break the link with Labour and found a new party based on the working class. The Grant-led "Socialist Appeal" continues to support a policy of work within the Labour Party and the trade unions in opposition to the Labour leadership's embrace of the Third Way under Tony Blair.

Taaffe had majority support in the Militant Tendency and also in the international organisation, the Committee for a Workers International (CWI): the opposition to the turn internationally walked out and founded the Committee for a Marxist International and its "In Defence of Marxism" website. The Taaffe-led majority in the CWI later founded a website [http://www.marxist.net Marxist resource from the Committee for a Workers' International] in part to publish the documents written by Peter Taaffe and the CWI in these and other developments and debates, as a contribution to an analysis of what they perceive to be the complexities of the current period, and how to build the path to the working class for the ideas of Marxism.

Militant went on to become Militant Labour and then the Socialist Party in 1997, with Taaffe as general secretary.

Taaffe continues to play an important role in the Committee for a Workers International, writing books and pamphlets such as the " [http://www.socialistworld.net/publications/history/index.html History of the CWI] ", and more recently, " [http://www.socialistworld.net/publications/afghanistan/index.html Afghanistan, Islam and the Revolutionary Left] " (2002).

His most recent book, "Marxism in Today’s World", arose from a visit to the CWI's offices in London by an Italian Marxist publishing collective "Guiovane Talpa", who conducted a probing interview with Peter Taaffe and Bob Labi on CWI policy over several days, publishing the transcript in Italian. At the completion of the project the CWI published an additional English version. This book discusses the views of the CWI on war, capitalism the environment and other issues, and is now being published in India.

Publications

Taaffe has written a number of books and pamphlets including:
*"Marxism in Today’s World", (2006)
*"1926 General Strike - workers taste power", (April 2006)
*" [http://www.socialistworld.net/publications/china/index.html Upheavals in China (pamphlet)] ", (April 2005).
*" [http://www.socialistworld.net/publications/history2/index.html A socialist world is possible] ", (February 2005)
*" [http://www.socialistworld.net/publications/vietnam/ Empire Defeated: Vietnam War - The Lessons For Today] ", (2003)
*" [http://www.socialistworld.net/publications/worldrelations/index.html Post-September 11: Can US Imperialism be challenged? (booklet)] ", (September 2002) One of the CWI world conference documents
*" [http://www.socialistworld.net/publications/afghanistan/index.html Afghanistan, Islam and the Revolutionary Left (pamphlet)] ", (February 2002)
*" [http://www.socialistworld.net/publications/Cuba/ Cuba: Socialism and Democracy - Debates on the Revolution and Cuba Today] ", (2000)
*"Global Turmoil" (CWI world conference document 1998) Joint production of the CWI international secretariat
*" [http://www.socialistworld.net/publications/history/index.html The History of the CWI (pamphlet)] ", (1997)
*" [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/militant/ The Rise of Militant: Militant's 30 years] ", (1995)
*"A world in crisis" (CWI world conference document 1994) Joint production of the CWI international secretariat
*"The Masses Arise: The Great French Revolution, 1789-1815", (1989)
*" [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/liverpool/ Liverpool - A city that Dared to Fight] ", with Tony Mulhearn (1988)

References

External links

* [http://www.socialistparty.org.uk Socialist Party (England & Wales)] website
* [http://www.socialistworld.net Committee for a Workers' International] website
* [http://www.marxist.net Marxist resource from the Committee for a Workers' International]
* [http://www.marxist.com/history-british-trotskyism-ted-grant.htm History of British Trotskyism] By Ted Grant
* [http://www.marxist.net/grantreply/index.html Militant's Real History: In reply to Ted Grant and Rob Sewell] by Peter Taaffe (this is a reply to Ted Grant's [http://www.marxist.com/history-british-trotskyism-introduction.htm History of British Trotskyism] and Rob Sewell's [http://www.marxist.com/hbt/p-1.html Postscript] to it)


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