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Peter Taaffe

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Peter Taaffe

Peter Taaffe is a Trotskyist political figure and general secretary of the Socialist Party of England and Wales. Taaffe is also a member of the International Executive Committee of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) which has members in 40 countries around the world and an MP in Ireland and councillors in several other countries like Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. Taaffe joined what was then the Revolutionary Socialist League, led by Ted Grant, in the early 1960s and became editor of its publication, Militant when it was launched in 1964. Eventually, the group became known by the name of the paper and was either referred to as Militant or the Militant Tendency. The Militant Tendency was, for a time in the 1980s, the largest Trotskyist organisation in Britain and, because of its practice of entryism in the Labour Party by far the best known.

The Labour Party under Michael Foot and especially Neil Kinnock moved to purge Militant from the party and the editorial board of Militant, including Taaffe and Ted Grant were expelled. Grant had been the leading figure in the group since its inception but in the face of changed conditions in the Labour Party a dispute broke out within Militant on whether the group should take an "open turn" and found an independent political party outside of and in competition with Labour or whether it should continue with entryism. The dispute arose specifically around the status of the group in Scotland where it had become very prominent due to its leadership role in the struggle against the Poll Tax and where electoral prospects looked promising. Taaffe and the majority in Militant supported the Scottish turn and the creation of Scottish Militant Labour whilst Grant and the minority opposed it after being initially in favour. Scottish Militant Labour eventually became the Scottish Socialist Party which has several MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, however, in 2003 the leadership of the SSP broke away from the CWI.

The dispute between the Taaffe led majority and the Grant led minority continued within Militant for some time until the majority leadership published documents that it claimed made it clear that the minority was intending to split from Militant and try to take as much of the party's resources as it could with it. Grant and his leading supporters were expelled and have reconstituted themselves as the Socialist Appeal tendency after its paper but known internally as the Workers International League. While the Taaffe led majority left the Labour Party, the Grant-led Socialist Appeal continues to work within the Labour Party and the trade unions fighting against Labour's leadership embrace of the Third Way under Tony Blair.

Militant went on to become Militant Labour and then the Socialist Party with Taaffe as general secretary. The Socialist Party currently holds several council seats, particularly in Coventry and London and today has a membership of several thousand, the largest Marxist group in Britain except for the Socialist Workers Party. The group has suffered several splits, however, particularly in Scotland and Liverpool, and like all Marxist groups in Britain suffered from a decline in membership in the 1990s, despite the idea defended at the time of the split that the "open turn" would mean an increase in it's influence and membership. Furthermore the abandonment of work in the Labour Party led to the expulsion of the Marxist MPs elected through Militant's influence in the Labour Party. However, the party has experienced a resurgence in recent years, particularly through it's leading role in Youth Walk-Out's from Schools and Colleges against the Iraq War. The Grant-led WIL, however, has fewer than 200 members though it has grown internationally through the Committee for a Marxist International and its In Defence of Marxism (http://www.marxist.com) webpage.

Taaffe has written several books including:

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