This is the resolution adopted by the majority of the Militant leadership in 1991 after the Walton by-election. In spite of having received far fewer votes than they had expected (in fact at one stage they even thought they could win), the resolution presents the campaign as a major success. It was supposed to avoid demoralisation of the left. Experience showed that it was the beginning of the decline of the influence of the Militant in Liverpool.
1. This CC congratulates those comrades responsible for the election campaign fought in Liverpool, Walton. We congratulate, in particular, Lesley Mahmood who throughout this campaign, proved to be an outstanding representative of this tendency.
2. This campaign has enormously enriched the experience of all comrades who participated. In the street meetings, youth activity, public meetings, leafleting, house-to-house work and workplace activity, thousands of workers have seen and listened to our ideas.
3. We faced the savage onslaught from the media which, in advance, we had anticipated. We were the central enemy of Liberals, the Tories and the official Labour candidate. Against this background, our 2,613 votes were, without question, conscious votes for a fighting socialist alternative.
4. Many more agreed with our programme but voted reluctantly for Peter Kilfoyle out of loyalty to Labour and because they were reluctant to split the Labour vote in a pre-election period. The special feature of by-elections, where opinion polls can have an effect on creating or undermining a momentum behind one candidate, also had an effect. One poll showed that Lesley had 9-10 per cent. Also, great play was made locally of a telephone poll suggesting Lesley would get only five per cent of the vote. Many workers then felt that we could not win and either abstained or swung over to vote for Kilfoyle, ‘holding their nose’.
5. In the local authority elections in Liverpool, after the decision was taken to stand, the announcement of cuts and redundancies by the council put the campaign in to a far sharper political focus. But for these attacks, it would have been harder at the time to have won those council seats. We have always recognised the difficulties that can face Marxists on the electoral plane. In the Walton campaign, tactical indecision by the union leaders during the campaign helped demoralise bin workers and other workers on the council, playing into the hands of the council and Kilfoyle. If the strike action had been brought to a head before the last council meeting, the entire political temperature would have risen, leading to a higher vote for our candidate. Instead, the lack of clear tactics and strategy by the council union leaders helped feed a mood of confusion and despondency among certain voters. This led a section of our pledged voters to abstain in despair.
6. Nevertheless, though we have been defeated in this election, Marxists do not judge success in elections purely in terms of electoral support. We have won valuable new recruits to this organisation. We have touched the lives of countless thousands of workers throughout the country in this campaign and we have put down a marker for the future. Under a future Labour government, workers – including many who disagreed with our ideas in this election – will say that we were right; that we took a principled stand in Walton. Kilfoyle has fostered the illusion that it is possible to work with the establishment to solve the problems of Liverpool workers. After these illusions are shattered, our credibility will be greatly enhanced.
7. We reaffirm the correctness of our decision to stand in Walton, given the situation that has developed in the Labour Party nationally and, critically, given the particular situation that had developed in Liverpool. Any decision by us not to stand would not have been understood by the best workers in the Liverpool area. It would have been seen as a dereliction of duty to our class and would have led to the demoralisation of the forces of the left in Liverpool.
8. We need now to draw upon the rich experience of this campaign in preparation for inevitable battles and campaigns that lie before us on the electoral and industrial plains, among the youth, Black and Asian workers, women workers and in the local communities.
9. We must also begin to draw conclusions for our work over the next period.
10. This election has demonstrated the mass electoral base of the Labour Party. In the run-up to the next election, this support will intensify. But we believe that this support is largely latent. The mood in society is mainly anti-Tory. There is no likelihood in the near future of any significant turn of ordinary workers towards activity within the Labour Party. The Labour leadership has little positive attraction to the best new layers of young industrial workers in industry, or to the youth at large. Moreover, where any section of the party offers even a weak challenge to the leadership or conducts serious campaigning work, they face the threat of expulsion. Because of this police regime and the lack of any semblance of a fighting stance by the Labour leadership, the activists have fallen away from the Labour Party in droves in recent years. The mass membership drive has been met with a mass exodus.
11. This situation will change completely in the future. Under the impact of major industrial and political conflicts, left reformist and even centrist currents will appear inside the Labour Party. It is impossible to precisely predict the timescale or the exact form. But however they unfold, there is no way this tendency will separated from these developments.
12. We agree that in the immediate future the majority of our forces will be engaged in openwork. We should strive to maintain all points of support we have inside the Labour Party and strive to develop aspects of this activity more tightly. In this work, however, we will not compromise our political programme. For the foreseeable future, our work in the Labour Party will be auxiliary to the open work we will carry out as an organised tendency outside the Labour Party. But the Labour Party remains the mass party of the British working class and it remains imperative that we orientate towards any developments within it.
13. We agree that the exact forms of our open work should now be discussed fully within the tendency leading to a discussion at the next CC and then to a decision by the National Congress.