Socialist Equality Party (UK)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Britain)

The Socialist Equality Parties

262. The renaming of the International Communist Party as the Socialist Equality Party in 1996 was conceived within the framework of a discussion by the International Committee to draw the necessary conclusions from its analysis of the collapse of the old workers’ organisations. In the post-war period, until the formation of the WRP, all the sections of the International Committee had adopted the form of leagues. This was in recognition of the fact that the Stalinist and social democratic parties held the allegiance of many socialist-minded workers, intellectuals and youth. The task of constructing a revolutionary party, therefore, could only proceed through a systematic struggle to dispel illusions in the socialist character of these parties, including their left representatives, and work for a radicalisation within their ranks and those of the trade unions they controlled.

263. A sea-change had now occurred in the relationship between the working class and these organisations. They no longer enjoyed the active and militant support of advanced workers, who viewed them as overt representatives of big business. Consequently, it was not a question of exposing illusions in other tendencies, but of directly establishing the right of the Trotskyist movement to lead the working class.

264. The formation of a party was not simply a question of a change in name, but a process that was begun in anticipation of a mass rebellion against the old organisations. Its aim was to bring the sections of the International Committee into an alignment with this emerging situation. The name Socialist Equality Party was adopted, after extensive discussion, in order to reconnect the working class with the essential goal of the socialist movement since its inception—the elimination of class oppression. It set the International Committee in direct opposition, not only to the terrible inequalities developing within contemporary society, but to all those tendencies that misuse socialist phrases to legitimise support for capitalism and bureaucratic privilege, and who make ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation the axis of politics.

265. A particular task facing the SEP is to clarify the political role being played by the Pabloites and other ex-left groups in opposing the development of a genuine socialist alternative to the moribund former workers’ organisations. To the extent that they are forced to distance themselves politically from the right-wing policies of the bureaucracy, these groups insist that any struggle must be led by supposedly “left” sections of the trade unions and the social democrats. This is the essential role of the New Anti-Capitalist Party, formed by the French section of the USec, and of Die Linke in Germany, formed through an alliance between the former East German Stalinists and a faction of the social democrats.

266. This relationship to the bureaucracy, not the pseudo-socialist rhetoric they use, defines and determines the character of these tendencies. They are not representatives of the working class, but a petty-bourgeois stratum that occupies a position overwhelmingly based in the public sector and in academia. Their claim that socialism can be achieved through the “blunt instrument” of one or another of the national bureaucracies has been the mechanism through which they have not only been incorporated into the upper echelons of many unions, but have also assumed governmental positions within the capitalist state.