Packing out the room with chairs in literally every space available, 75 people from across Yorkshire came to a rally in Leeds to celebrate 50 Years Since the Launch of Militant in October 1964 on Thursday 9th October.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Standing as an able last minute replacement for Socialist Party General Secretary, and founding editor of Militant, Peter Taaffe, was Clare Doyle who joined Militant around the time it was launched and was subsequently one of the five members of the Militant editorial board expelled from the Labour Party in 1983.
Clare explained the political situation at the time Militant was launched; on the cusp of the first Labour government in 13 years and in a situation where the world was polarised between US & European capitalism and the Stalinist regimes.
In this situation, Militant supporters built up the Young Socialists in the Labour Party, fighting tooth and nail for democratic elections, its own conference etc. When Clare went full time in the early 70s in the Northern region, this gave Militant a solid base to rapidly expand its sales and regularity of publication.
This laid the foundation for the struggles in the 1980s, where despite Clare and other leading Militant supporters being expelled from the Labour Party, Militant supporters played important roles in Liverpool City Council, the Miners Strike and in bringing down Thatcher through the Poll Tax struggle.
Clare recalled how she was dubbed ‘Red Clare’ in the press for organising alongside the Young Socialists a public meeting against Stop and Search laws in Brixton where she lived at the time. She recalled how they advertised it through chalking pavements and had 700 people turn up and amended the proposed motion calling for decent jobs, and end to cuts and the Sus laws to start ‘We the people of Brixton…’
Ultimately, the collapse of Stalinism, despite our criticisms of the bureaucratic nature of the states based on planned economies, impacted seriously on the Labour movement, and Militant wasn’t exempt from that. A parting of the ways took place, with some who still saw possibilities in a rightward moving Labour Party. As other comrades remarked in the discussion – the holding together of a core of Marxists through this period has led to the possibilities of the expansion of the Socialist Party in recent years.
Clare concluded by remarking that although the Labour Party has drifted to the right and is no longer seen by many workers as vehicle to improve their situation, struggles like in Liverpool City Council which form the basis of the anti-cuts approach we and our allies take in building a new force to represent workers in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
Militant cartoonist, Alan Hardman also spoke from the platform. He explained how he was taken on fulltime to set up Militant’s in-house printshop and how that then led him to start drawing cartoons to improve the quality of the Militant paper.
Alan remarked on how he first got interested in the Militant, when some mentioned that ‘Militant supporters were organised… and they were serious’ and concluded that is art is a creative process, then every action in the struggle to transform society is a brushstroke in the greatest art possible.
An inspiring contribution was made by Mike Forster, who explained how he and other young comrades built Militant across Yorkshire. This ultimately led to the election of Militant supporter Pat Wall as a marxist MP in Bradford North.
Mike also appealed for comrades to emulate the sacrifices Militant supporters made in the past to help fund our campaigning work today, and received an enthusiastic response with a collection of over £650, with hundreds more rasied through sales of copies of Alan’s art, books, tshirts, badges as well as a raffle.
As I concluded in my contribution to the meeting, the last fifty years has produced a veritable treasure trove of ideas. It gives the possibility that the new generations of today could be looking back in a further fifty years having superseded those acheivements and started the building of socialism.