274. In June 1996, the SLL held its 17th National Congress to begin the process of transforming itself into the Socialist Equality Party. A similar initiative was being undertaken in all the sections of the ICFI. This was not simply a change of name. It was based on the recognition of the new responsibilities posed to the party by the far-reaching changes in the fundamental historical context in which the party conducted its work. New forms of work were necessitated by the political realignment underway in the international working class.
275. The new perspective was elaborated by David North: “It is the development of the contradictions of world capitalism and the class struggle as an objective historical process that determines the organisational forms within which our activity develops. These forms, and the relation to the working class that they express, bear a specific relation to the historic conditions under which they arose and initially developed. The formation of leagues, from the Socialist Labour League in Britain in 1959, the Workers League in 1966, the Revolutionary Communist League in 1968, to the formation of the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter in 1971 and the Socialist Labour League in Australia in 1972, was bound up with definite historical conditions and strategic conceptions of the development of the revolutionary movement of the working class. The central strategical problem that confronted the Trotskyist movement in this early period in the development of the ICFI was the active and militant allegiance given by the most advanced sections of the working class to the mass Stalinist and social democratic parties and trade unions. The political activity of our sections therefore assumed, despite variations in tactics, that the starting point of a great new revolutionary reorientation of the working class would proceed in the form of a radicalisation among the most class-conscious and politically-active elements within the ranks of these organisations. Out of that movement, in which sections of the International Committee would play a catalytic role as the most intransigent opponents of social democracy and Stalinism, would arise the real possibilities for the establishment of a mass revolutionary party.”
276. The transformation of the old organisations of the working class meant that the SLL now had to shoulder the responsibility for establishing that party and fighting to build it in the working class. In its congress resolution, the SLL noted: “The very name ‘Socialist Equality’ makes clear the connection between socialism and the most basic strivings of the working class for a just society, based on social equality and the right of all people to a decent and productive life.”