In the British election, the Spartacist League correctly denounced the Labour Party for its racist and anti-working class policies. It further condemned the Socialist Alliance as a surrogate for Labour (indeed, SA and most of its left components called for a Labour vote in districts that SA was not contesting). But the Spartacists showed their own eagerness to hunt for “good” reformists by urging a vote for Scargill’s SLP despite its lack of both a revolutionary program and any impetus from the class struggle.
The justification they offered was that the SLP is “running an independent working-class campaign that draws a class line, however crudely, against the Labour Party.” But midway in the campaign they discovered that one of the SLP candidates was a cop, an activist in the anti-worker probation officers’ “union.” Did the Spartacists then withdraw their support for the SLP? No: they called for a vote for the SLP minus the one cop candidate, claiming that the SLP was still “running a supportable campaign."
No way. The SLP, backing a cop candidate, proved that it could not draw even a crude class line any more than Labour. By the Spartacists’ own method, just as they denied support to SA for endorsing Labour, they should have dis-endorsed the SLP for supporting a cop. The attraction of Scargill’s pro-Stalinism (he, like they, endorsed General Jaruzelski’s military suppression of the Polish workers’ struggle in 1981) was enough to drag the Spartacists across even the crude class line they themselves had drawn. And they, like he, hid the fact that Jaruzelski’s “workers’ state” sent scab coal to Britain during the miners’ strike that Scargill led.
But their method itself is wrong. It has at times been tactically necessary to support voting for the Labour Party, as in 1920 when Lenin famously called for supporting Labour “as a rope supports a hanged man.” The Labour Party, despite its working-class base, has always been a party of British capital. Acting as imperialist cops, it far outshines whatever evils the SLP’s probation officer commits. The determining factor is whether the workers’ perceive that the reformist party is leading them in struggle. Today that is true neither of Labour, the SA or the SLP.
Critical support is a weapon designed to expose reformist misleaders and deflate workers’ illusions in them. It is not an award for setting up a crude and easily crossable class line.