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

Renunciationism and the emergence of New Labour

259. In Britain, the ICP’s tactical approach towards the Labour Party was radically amended as a result of the changes analysed by the International Committee. Its December 1993 Fourth Congress resolution, “The death agony of reformism and the tasks of the International Communist Party,” explained that the degeneration of the Labour Party and the trade unions, and the abandonment of their old reformist programme, had fundamentally changed their relationship to the working class. This meant dropping the tactic of calling for a critical vote for Labour in areas where the ICP’s own candidates were not standing in elections, as well as the demand to “make the lefts fight”:

“Labour’s support for capitalism no longer requires unmasking. It openly proclaims it. Moreover, there is no such thing as a centrist tendency, in the context in which Marxists historically have understood this term, within the Labour Party today.… To demand that any section of this bureaucracy carry out socialist policies now would only serve to recreate dangerous illusions and disarm the working class”.[1]

260. Addressing those who called for the formation of a new party based on the trade unions, the perspective declared:

“Such a call is not simply a hankering after the past. Should such a party be formed by sections of the bureaucracy, Labour ‘lefts’ and the radicals in response to Labour’s break-up, its sole aim would be to divert the working class away from revolutionary politics and down the road of national chauvinism. For more than 70 years, the working class in Britain has had such a ‘party based on the trade unions’, and it has delivered it over to the capitalists time and again…. Moreover, the unions today are not the defensive organisations of the past and, divorced from a socialist programme, cannot serve as anything other than an agency of imperialism. The demand for a return to ‘truly working class unionism’ is not only utopian, but reactionary. Experience has shown that such a perspective only serves as a left cover for the trade union leaders and leads the working class into a dead end”.[2]

261. The resolution anticipated the formation of New Labour, under the leadership of Blair, as a right-wing bourgeois party. The trade union bureaucracy backed Blair every step of the way, with a majority voting in 1995 in favour of the abolition of Clause 4 of Labour’s constitution.


Fourth Congress resolution, The death agony of reformism and the tasks of the International Communist Party, December 1993.