Socialist Studies (1989)

Socialist Studies (1989)

"Socialist Studies" is the name of a quarterly Marxist zine and of the group which publishes it. The group was founded in 1991 by sixteen expelled members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) who claim that their expulsions were the result of an anti-socialist conspiracy. Though small the group has remained an active and vocal critic of the SPGB since its inception.

The publication

Infobox_Newspaper
name = Socialist Studies
owners = Socialist Studies


caption = Cover of "Socialist Studies" № 1
type = Quarterly zine
format = A5
foundation = 1989
price = GBP 1.00
publisher = Socialist Studies
editor = Richard Lloyd
language = English
political = socialist
circulation = < 100
headquarters = London
website = [http://www.socialiststudies.org.uk/ socialiststudies.org.uk]

"Socialist Studies" was first published in 1989 by the Camden and North West London branches of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, though since issue № 3 (1991) it has been published by an independent organisation (see "History and activity" below).

The early issues consisted primarily of material reprinted from the works of Karl Marx and the "Socialist Standard", though the paper now consists of original material. The format has remained the same for the past fifteen years: three to twelve A4 sheets of single-column word-processed text, photocopied and folded to produce an A5 booklet. The publication is text-only, with no graphics or photographs; none of the articles have a byline, and until № 35 (Spring 2000), none of the issues were dated. It is sold in small numbers by mail order and at Socialist Studies propaganda meetings.

The group

History and activity

The history of the group now known as Socialist Studies dates to 1991, when the Camden and North West London branches were expelled from the Socialist Party of Great Britain after a party-wide referendum found them to be engaged in persistent undemocratic behaviour.cite book
last = Executive Committee, The Socialist Party of Great Britain
authorlink = Socialist Party of Great Britain
title = Minutes of the 13th Meeting of the 88th Executive Committee Held at Head Office on Tuesday 7 May 1991
date = 7 May 1991
] cite book
last = Executive Committee, The Socialist Party of Great Britain
authorlink = Socialist Party of Great Britain
title = Minutes of the 30th Meeting of the 88th Executive Committee Held at Head Office on Tuesday 19 November 1991
date = 19 November 1991
] A number of factors led up to the expulsions (see "Differences with the Socialist Party of Great Britain" below), but the action the branches were ultimately charged with was failing to abide by a 1988 party resolution regarding the use of the party's name for publicity purposes.

Some of these ex-members, comprising sixteen individuals, refused to recognise the expulsions and attempted to continue operating as the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which they claimed to have "reconstituted".cite paper
title = Reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
date = 11 June 1991
] According to a "Socialist Studies" retrospective article (cite journal
title = The Reconstituted SPGB: A Historical Document
journal = Socialist Studies
issue = 40
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
date = Summer 2001
), the sixteen founder members were J Bell, O Blomley, J D'Arcy, E Hardy, G Howlett, L Lestor, L Frank, A D'Arcy, T D'Arcy, D Davies, M Davies, K Knight, R Lloyd, C May, G Wilson, and H Young.] As the original Socialist Party of Great Britain had never been dissolved, and indeed continued to operate following the expulsions, this was generally seen as fraudulent. Their attempts to pass themselves off as the SPGB were consistently blocked by the police, courts, government, and other organisations. For example:
*In the early 1990s the group attempted to open accounts in the name of the SPGB at various banks and building societies, but in each case the account was frozen and/or cancelled for alleged or actual fraudulent use.cite journal
title = The Socialist Party's Fraudulent Claims
journal = Socialist Studies
issue = 13
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
year = 1994
] "The Socialist Party of Great Britain v Britannia Building Society" (1993, Edmonton County Court case № ED400825)]
*In 1994 the group sued Britannia Building Society for having frozen an account it had opened in the name of the SPGB. The court refused to recognise the group as the Socialist Party of Great Britain and instead joined the original Socialist Party of Great Britain to the suit as intervenors.
*In 2000 the group gained control of an Internet domain name registered to the SPGB. The domain name registry, Nominet, determined this to be domain hijacking and returned control of it to the SPGB. A subsequent hijacking was attempted in 2006 but was discovered and prevented by Nominet.cite conference
author = The Socialist Party of Great Britain
authorlink = Socialist Party of Great Britain
title = Report to the 2006 Annual Delegate Meeting on Actions Taken Pursuant to the 1995 Conference Resolution Concerning the Protection of the Party's Identity and Funds
booktitle = Proceedings of the 2006 Annual Delegate Meeting of the Socialist Party
date = 14 October 2006
pages = 13–23
publisher = The Socialist Party of Great Britain
location = London
]
*In 2003 the group opened a post office box in the name of the SPGB; the Royal Mail and London Metropolitan Police subsequently shut it down on suspicion of identity fraud.London Metropolitan Police, Kennington Criminal Investigation Department. Report № 1226491/06.]
*The Electoral Commission does not permit Socialist Studies to register under the name "Socialist Party of Great Britain", as it recognises the original Socialist Party of Great Britain as the only party permitted to register under that name.cite web
title = Socialist Party of Great Britain [The]
work = Register of Political Parties
publisher = The Electoral Commission
year = 2006
url = http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/regulatory-issues/regpoliticalparties.cfm?frmGB=1&frmPartyID=68&frmType=partydetail
accessdate = 2006-09-08
] Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, §4(a)(i) (2000 c. 41)] Because of these problems, and to differentiate itself from the original SPGB, the group has variously referred to itself in its publicity material as the Reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain, the New Socialist Party of Great Britain, and Socialist Studies. Third parties refer to them as the Socialist Studies group.cite journal
last = Percy
first = John
title = The Ukraine scam, internationals and internationalism
journal = Links
issue = 25
publisher = New Course Publications
month = June | year = 2004
id = ISSN 1321-795X
url = http://www.dsp.org.au/links/back/issue25/Percy.htm
format = dead link|date=June 2008 &ndash; [http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=author%3APercy+intitle%3AThe+Ukraine+scam%2C+internationals+and+internationalism&as_publication=Links&as_ylo=&as_yhi=&btnG=Search Scholar search]
] cite journal
last = DAP
title = Getting Splinters
journal = Socialist Standard
volume = 100
issue = 1198
pages = 38–41
publisher = Socialist Party of Great Britain
month = June | year = 2004
id = ISSN 0037-8259
] cite journal
title = What is the SPGB? (Part 4): 1945–2004
journal = World Revolution
issue = 276
publisher = International Communist Current
month = July | year = 2004
url = http://en.internationalism.org/wr/276_spgb_part4.htm
]

The group's activity consists primarily of publishing "Socialist Studies" and various pamphlets, and holding occasional propaganda meetings. They claim they are eager to debate with anyone ["Socialist Studies" № 6] but in practice they have turned down offers to debate with rival political groups such as the International Communist Current. [cite web
title = Why the SPGB's reply to the ICC is pathetic
work = Scottish Socialist Youth website
date = 2005-04-16
url = http://www.ssy.org.uk/Forum/YaBB.cgi?board=marxism;action=display;num=1113659950
accessdate = 2006-09-18 (through [http://66.249.93.104/search?q=cache:DJl2NOBfdoQJ:www.ssy.org.uk/Forum/YaBB.cgi%3Fboard%3DMarchxism%3Baction%3Ddisplay%3Bnum%3D1113659950+%22richard+lloyd%22+%22socialist+studies%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4 Google cache] )
] Socialist Studies was not a registered political party until December 2006, when they registered with the Electoral Commission as Socialist Studies Party (1904). [Citation
last = Prince
first = Rosa
title = X factor: Forget the big three… Here are the others after your votes
newspaper = Daily Mirror
year = 2007
date = 2007-04-23
url = http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/topstories/tm_method=full&objectid=18947474&siteid=89520-name_page.html
] cite web
title = Socialist Studies Party (1904)
work = Register of Political Parties
publisher = The Electoral Commission
year = 2006
url = http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/regulatory-issues/regpoliticalparties.cfm?frmGB=1&frmPartyID=719&frmType=partydetail
accessdate = 2007-04-25
] As of 2007, though, they have never contested a local, national, or EU election.

Organisational structure

As of 2006, Socialist Studies claims to have 24 members, almost all of whom are in the UK. [E-mail from Socialist Studies General Secretary Richard Lloyd, 23 June 2006 ] Officially they are divided into separate Camden/Bloomsbury and North West London branches, though the two branches operate jointly for all practical purposes. A joint branch business meeting is held one evening per month from September to July.

Criticism

In common with its companion group, the World Socialist Party of India, Socialist Studies has been criticised, both from within and by third parties, for not being run openly and democratically. Critics observe that the group has no formal constitution or rulebook; does not hold internal elections, polls, or referendums; holds secret meetings which are closed to the public and not even announced to its own membership; and summarily expels dissident members.cite book
last = Executive Committee, The Socialist Party of Great Britain
authorlink = Socialist Party of Great Britain
title = Minutes of the 18th Meeting of the 88th Executive Committee Held at Head Office on Tuesday 16 July 1991
date = 16 July 1991
] cite paper
author = Cumming, R.
title = Towards A Critique of the Socialist Party of Great Britain: Utopian vs. Scientific Socialism
date = 29 June 2004
] One Socialist Studies member summed up the organisational problems as follows:

[Socialist Studies] is not democratically organised. There is no committee that is representative of the will of the general membership. It is true that there is a Joint Branch Meeting, but this meeting is composed of members who are not elected… the [Executive] Committee is meant to be elected annually by all Party members. This has not been done… Indeed, I have never been asked to vote on anything in the two years I have been a member.
The group's current General Secretary, Richard Lloyd, was elected in 2004 unanimously by a poll of just eight of the group's then 30 members; no nominations had been solicited from the membership at large.cite book
publisher = Socialist Studies [then operating as the Socialist Party of Great Britain]
authorlink = Socialist Studies
title = Minutes of The Socialist Party of Great Britain ["sic"] , Camden Bloomsbury and North West London Branches
date = 23 March 2004
]

Differences with the Socialist Party of Great Britain

Socialist Studies adopted the object and principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and thus claims to hold that party's general ideology and stance on most social, economic, and political issues. However, there are several ideological and practical differences between Socialist Studies and the Socialist Party of Great Britain, most of which arise from the former's narrower interpretation of the object and principles and its views on how strictly these interpretations must be adhered to. For the matters discussed in this section, Socialist Studies generally adopts the position that anyone who does not hold their interpretation cannot be regarded as a true socialist. On the other hand, the Socialist Party of Great Britain holds that at least some of the following issues are ones upon which genuine socialists may disagree with each other; disagreement with the majority position does not automatically disqualify one from being a socialist or from membership in the Party.cite book
last = Executive Committee, The Socialist Party of Great Britain
authorlink = Socialist Party of Great Britain
title = Reply to the World Socialist Party (India)'s "Ninth Annual Conference Critique of the Socialist Party of Great Britain 1991 Expulsion/Reconstitution Events"
date = 3 May 2003
] Socialist Studies's less accommodating stance has been labelled "doctrinaire", a characterisation which they categorically reject.cite journal
title = Democracy and Principle
journal = Socialist Studies
issue = 51
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
date = Spring 2003
]

Political franchise

The principal ideological disagreement Socialist Studies has with the Socialist Party of Great Britain is its attitude towards attempts by workers living under political dictatorships to establish elementary democratic and trade union rights, especially in Eastern Europe in the 1980s and early 1990s.cite conference
last = Executive Committee, The Socialist Party of Great Britain
authorlink = Socialist Party of Great Britain
title = Annexe: The Political Differences Between Camden & North West London Branches and the Executive Committee
booktitle = Minutes of the 20th Meeting of the 88th Executive Committee Held at Head Office on Tuesday 6 August 1991
date = 6 August 1991
] [cite paper
title = Untitled circular
publisher = Socialist Party of Great Britain, Camden and North West London Branches
date = 18 February 1982
] [cite paper
title = About the Polish Political Organisation, Solidarity
publisher = Socialist Party of Great Britain, Camden and North West London Branches
date = 15 September 1990
]

The stance of the SPGB since 1939 is summarised by the following 1990 party conference resolution:

This Conference re-affirms the stand taken in the September [actually October] 1939 "Socialist Standard" and repeated in the September 1989 "Socialist Standard", that the Socialist Party of Great Britain wholeheartedly supports the efforts of workers everywhere to secure democratic rights against the powers of suppression. Whilst we avoid any association with parties or political groups seeking to administer capitalism, we emphasise that freedom of movement and expression, the freedom to organise in trade unions, to organise politically, and to participate in elections, are of great importance to all workers and are vital to the success of the socialist movement.cite book
last = Socialist Party of Great Britain
authorlink = Socialist Party of Great Britain
title = Proceedings of the 1990 Conference of the Socialist Party of Great Britain
year = 1990
]

Socialist Studies, on the other hand, regards the struggle by workers living under a dictatorship to establish some measure of political democracy as a reformist struggle which socialists should oppose. They believe that the difference between democratic capitalist governments and dictatorial capitalist governments is of no significance to workers, that political democracy is not essential for the propagation of socialist ideas, and that workers in dictatorships should not directly confront the forces of suppression. Instead, Socialist Studies believes that they must be "hostile to such movements for democracy and to call on workers to form instead a socialist political party based on [their] principles". [cite paper
title = Misleading the Workers in Eastern Europe
publisher = Socialist Party of Great Britain, Camden Branch
date = November 1990
]

The SPGB does not consider Socialist Studies's position to be incompatible with socialism, but rather simply a different (albeit illogical) interpretation of its principles:

Indifference to moves by workers to try to establish a minimum of political democracy has, once again, been a minority position within the SPGB though not a matter for expulsion. If [a companion party] were to adopt this position, we could live with it and would not consider it a matter for its exclusion from the World Socialist Movement (though we would reserve the right to criticise it as illogical).

Cooperation with capitalist law

Despite calling for the establishment of socialist political parties, Socialist Studies believes that such parties should not engage in political action which requires use of or active cooperation with what they call "capitalist law" or "bourgeois legislation". This arises from their interpretation of Clause 8 of their Declaration of Principles. That clause states that "Socialist Studies… enters the field of political action";cite web
title = Object and Declaration of Principles
work = Socialist Studies website
publisher = Socialist Studies
year = 2006
url = http://www.socialiststudies.org.uk/object%20and%20dec.shtml
accessdate = 2006-09-14
] the group interprets this as specifically excluding "legal or moral action" and as "overrid [ing] any other consideration".cite paper
title = The Clapham-based Socialist Party – Just Another Capitalist Party
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
date = 1 August 2006
] In light of this, they accuse the Socialist Party of Great Britain of being capitalist collaborators for having registered with the Electoral Commission, which is a legal requirement to contest elections in the UK.

Socialist Studies's attitude towards capitalist law is apparently a recent ideological development, as members of the group had previously registered as candidates for parliamentary and council elections when they were members of the SPGB. [cite web
title = Greater London Council Election Results: Lambeth
work = United Kingdom Election Results
publisher = David Boothroyd
year = 2006
url = http://www.election.demon.co.uk/glc/glclm.html
accessdate = 2006-11-09
(Relevant candidates are H. Baldwin, M. Sansum, and H. Young.)
] [cite web
title = Greater London Council Election Results: Cities of London and Westminster
work = United Kingdom Election Results
publisher = David Boothroyd
year = 2006
url = http://www.election.demon.co.uk/glc/glcct.html
accessdate = 2006-11-09
(Relevant candidate is J D'Arcy.)
] Also, the group as a whole has occasionally appealed to the state's legal institutions, such as their 1994 lawsuit against the Britannia Building Society and their use of the police to guard their private meetings. In 1993 the group publicly accused the Socialist Party of Great Britain of "criminal libel"cite journal
title = Revolutionary Litigants?
journal = Socialist Studies
issue = 8
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
year = 1993
pages = 6
] and has repeatedly indicated that it is prepared to sue if necessary.cite paper
author = P. Lawrence
title = Report of the Meeting of Camden Branch Held at Marchmont Community Centre – Tuesday 14th May 1991 – 6 to 8pm
]

Party name

The Socialist Party of Great Britain had been using the short form of its name, "The Socialist Party", for publicity purposes as far back as 1910. [cite journal
title = General Election – Manifesto of the Socialist Party
journal = Socialist Standard
volume = 6
issue = 65
month = January | year = 1910
publisher = Socialist Party of Great Britain
id = ISSN 0037-8259
] In 1988, the party passed a resolution at its annual conference indicating when to use the full-form and short-form names: the full-form name was to be retained as the official name for use on legal documents and publication credits, and the short form was to be used for most other purposes, including election ballots and propaganda.cite book
last = Socialist Party of Great Britain
authorlink = Socialist Party of Great Britain
title = Proceedings of the 1988 Conference of the Socialist Party of Great Britain
year = 1988
] (This is analogous to how the Conservative and Unionist Party publicises itself as "The Conservative Party".) The resolution was made partly to codify an existing practice, and partly to avoid what some members considered the nationalistic connotation of "Great Britain".

Socialist Studies interprets the 1988 resolution as having completely changed the party's name and proscribing the use of the full form.cite journal
title = The Socialist Party Refuses to Debate
journal = Socialist Studies
issue = 8
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
date = 1993(?)
pages = 15–19
] cite book
title = Socialist Principles Explained
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
year = 1993
] They see this resolution as conflicting with the party's Declaration of Principles, one clause of which mentions the party's full name explicitly. It is largely on this basis that they justified their continued operation as the Socialist Party of Great Britain: they claim that they were expelled from "The Socialist Party", not "The Socialist Party of Great Britain". They also claim that they are entitled to use the name because the original Socialist Party of Great Britain no longer exists:

The Socialist Party of Great Britain of 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN, is defunct and no longer exists as a political party. It does not produce political literature, hold propaganda meetings or contest elections. It cannot exist merely as a name without a body… We are the only political organisation in this country bearing the title 'The Socialist Party of Great Britain'.

Reformism

The SPGB has a longstanding position that it is "opposed to a reform programme and to reformist organisations, but not opposed to reforms as such"—that is, the party does not campaign for reforms itself, since its sole object is the establishment of socialism, but is not opposed to reforms passed by the government when they are clearly in the interests of the working class. The Socialist Studies group disagrees with this position, explicitly stating that socialist MPs in parliament should vote against reform measures even when they are in the interests of the working class.cite journal
title = The Socialist Position on Reforms
journal = Socialist Studies
issue = 43
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
date = Spring 2002
pages = 15–17
]

The SPGB considers Socialist Studies's position on how socialist MPs should vote to be "a legitimate position for a socialist to hold, even though it is not the one that, as a matter of historical fact, has been adopted by the SPGB", and "do [es] not regard it as a matter for serious dispute".

Abolition of the state

Socialist Studies accuses the SPGB of coming under the influence of anarchist ideas and not sufficiently emphasising the parliamentary aspect of the socialist revolution. Socialist Studies claims that the SPGB's position is that the state would be abolished immediately upon the overthrow of class society, whereas Socialist Studies's position is that the state would "gradually wither away" instead. [cite paper
author = Hardcastle, Edgar
title = Withering Away of the State
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
year = 1995
] [cite paper
title = Socialism & The State – Why Buick is Wrong
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
date = October 1991
] Referring to the SPGB's 1984 Conference resolution (since rescindedFact|date=February 2007) that "Socialism will entail the immediate abolition of and not the gradual decline of the State", Socialist Studies writes,

If you are in favour of the immediate abolition of the State when Socialism is established then you are in favour of its immediate abolition here and now, which is of course the anarchist position… Unless Socialists use the power of the machinery of government to dispossess the capitalist class they will be unable to establish Socialism. We find it inconceivable that intelligent Socialists of a future generation would even consider such an act of monumental stupidity.cite journal
title = Clapham and the Immediate Abolition of the State
journal = Socialist Studies
issue = 28
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
year = 1998
pages = 20–23
]

Relations with the Socialist Party of Great Britain

Much of the material published by "Socialist Studies" is highly critical, and often outright contemptuous, of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which it refers to as the "Clapham-based Socialist Party" or the "Socialist Party of Clapham". The group variously claims that the SPGB is anarchist, reformist, capitalist, fascist,cite journal
title = The Bourgeois Revolutionaries with the Judas Touch
journal = Socialist Studies
issue = 14
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
date = 1994(?)
pages = 5–11
] Stalinist,cite journal
title = Desperate Spoiling Tactics
journal = Socialist Studies
issue = 60
publisher = Socialist Studies [then publishing as "The Socialist Party of Great Britain"]
date = Summer 2006
] Trotskyist, undemocratic, and democracy fetishist. According to Socialist Studies, the Socialist Party of Great Britain colludes with the Electoral Commission to "prevent Socialists [from] carrying out political propaganda on the web", and does this because its own propaganda is not being read as widely as that of Socialist Studies. Socialist Studies also claims that the SPGB has a secret de facto leadership of "godfathers", at least one of whom is a secret agent for MI5, who conspire to suppress socialist ideas and to destroy Socialist Studies.

Socialist Studies has repeatedly called on the SPGB to respond to some of these accusations and to engage in debates on their ideological differences. However, as these calls were made at the time Socialist Studies was still claiming to be the Socialist Party of Great Britain, the SPGB refused to recognise their legitimacy. The only official published comment the SPGB has made on the Socialist Studies group has been in an article devoted to the history of breakaway groups in the centenary issue of the "Socialist Standard", which described them as "a small group of rather disgruntled ex-members".

ee also

*World Socialist Party of India
*Socialist Party of Great Britain

References

Further reading

*cite book
last = Barberis
first = Peter
coauthors = John McHugh, Mike Tyldesley (eds.)
title = Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations
publisher = Pinter
year = 1999
pages = 164

*cite book
last = Boothroyd
first = David
authorlink = David Boothroyd
title = Politico's Guide to the History of British Political Parties
publisher = Politico's Publishing
year = 2001
pages = 300
id = ISBN 1-902301-59-5

*cite book
last = Perrin
first = David A.
title = The Socialist Party of Great Britain: Politics, Economics and Britain's Oldest Socialist Party
publisher = Bridge Books
year = 2000
pages = 123
location = Wrexham
id = ISBN 1-872424-80-5

External links

* [http://www.socialiststudies.org.uk/ Socialist Studies]


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