It was Healy’s practice to send such political letters as this to clarify important questions and keep members informed. They show his method of party building and are vital material necessary for training leading Marxist cadres today. (Ed)
20TH. June 1963
FIFTH NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE SOCIALIST LABOUR LEAGUE
The Profumo scandal and the Tory crisis provide an excellent opportunity for the Socialist Labour League to continue to make the progress which was so much in evidence at our Fifth National Conference.
This does not mean that we relax our campaign against unemployment, particularly in relation to work amongst the youth. It simply means that we carry out this activity within a framework of a political crisis which has split the ruling class from top to bottom. The effect of this split will, in all probability, not be felt immediately within the working class movement, but there is no doubt that it will open up opportunities for us in the coming months. Our immediate objective is to prepare for this opening.
It is essential that we understand the deep-going nature of the present crisis and not jump to conclusions as some of our opponents do that this is just a storm in a teacup. An open division in the ruling class means a weakness in its hold over the working class and its ability to proceed with its offensive against wages and working class conditions. Thus our political intervention around the Profumo scandal is directly related to the work which we do in other fields, such as the trade unions, youth, and student activity.
One special feature of the four weeks campaign we have now launched to bring down the Tory government is that it will appeal especially to adult workers. As the Conference showed, it is urgent that we attract many more into our organisation so that they can help provide experience for the youth as part of their essential education for future leadership.
Briefly, our campaign consists of the following main objectives:
1. An increase in the circulation of the Newsletter. The publication of the larger size paper for four
weeks commencing with the issue of 29 June will cover the period of the campaign. The
contents of these issues will be so arranged as to make a special appeal for new members to
join the Socialist Labour League. We will presently be sending our suggestions for target figures
for the areas covering these four weeks.
2. We need to organise our canvassing work in a way that will attract new people to our public
meetings. Thus a consistent canvass over a new area should be followed by leafleting and the
sale of tickets for our meeting. The local branch should then arrange transport from this area to
the meeting. Those who buy tickets should be called upon and taken to the meeting.
3. The production of the larger size paper should act as an introduction to a campaign to increase
the size of The Newsletter as well as its circulation some time late in the autumn or early
winter. We cannot make any definite arrangements about this step as yet, because it involves
machine installation for which we have very little space.
What we have to do now is to keep the matter in mind by building up new circles of readers for the paper.
The discussion at the Conference revealed weaknesses in our work. That was the purpose of the Conference. It was not our intention to congratulate ourselves on successes but rather to insure that these successes continue by exposing present weaknesses. Comrades should understand that in this respect our conference is very different from all others in the Labour movement.
But it would be wrong to believe that we discussed all the weaknesses at the Conference. Already the Profumo scandal has revealed that many of the old difficulties, especially in the leadership, still remain.
Unfortunately, several comrades still fail to understand what this political crises means in terms of the weakening of the ruling class. These are comrades who enter each new campaign with the express purpose of accepting orders from the centre without feeling in the least bit to think about their activity in a way that will help to develop our work as a whole so that it will enrich our knowledge of the application of Marxist theory. They simply carry out tasks and when these are finished stand still both mentally and physically until the next set of orders comes along.
This produces a real crisis within the organisation and the people who suffer the most are the newer members who look to the leading comrades for guidance. It seems that every time we advance some leading members, instead of considering how to continue with the advance, stand still and refuse to budge until after endless frustrating argument they are finally persuaded to accept what they interpret as fresh orders. Under these conditions they cannot develop new members simply because they are not developing themselves.
Some comrades also believe that all they have to do is to accept a reprimand from the centre and then walk away doing precisely nothing about it.
In the campaign we are now launching, the leadership is going to be tested to the fullest and the new National Committee, when it meets early in July, will have to make a most critical evaluation of its work and perspective for the coming months.
The Socialist Labour League is making new members all the time. It contains some of the finest representatives of the youth in Britain. We have many advantages which other organisations in the Fourth International do not enjoy, but the weakness still remains one of leadership. We must say over and over again that it is no use evading responsibilities in this respect. Either the new National Committee makes a change which in turn will have its immediate effect upon the activity of all our membership or we shall find ourselves slipping back into the conservatism which marked the activity of some of our comrades over the past few years.
The Conference revealed a gap in political development between different sections of our organisation. We shall only make real strides in overcoming this gap when the membership carries out its practical work and at the same time thinks about what it is doing in relation to the development of our basic principles.
The main directive of our Conference was to prepare for the forthcoming crisis in the Labour Party. The present campaign to bring down the Tories is a big step in that direction. It should provide an extremely useful background to our area conferences in the autumn, where we shall be examining and planning another stage in our work.