At the end of July, journalist and writer Paul Foot died of a heart attack at the age of 66. His obituaries appeared in many leading bourgeois dailies. Socialist News, the vacuous bi-monthly sheet of the near extinct Socialist Labour Party (SLP) of Arthur Scargill, also honoured Paul Foot in its September/October 2004 issue in the most effusive terms.
Describing him as a “true socialist”, who fought for “working class people everywhere”, and used his “… considerable skill, intellect and energy in the pursuit of truth and justice”, Socialist News goes on to reproduce Arthur Scargill’s statement on Foot’s death. Among other things, Scargill says that Paul Foot as a “socialist” for over 30 years had “… been an inspiration to the people both in this country and around the world”; that he “… was above all, a committed socialist who wanted to see an end to a rotten capitalist system and in that I [Scargill – Lalkar] always regarded him as a comrade and a friend”, that he “… fought all his life for the advancement of working class people, not only in Britain but throughout the world”. These are reasons enough for Scargill to “… salute [this] outstanding man” and to mourn the man whose “untimely death” has left the “movement … infinitely poorer”. If Scargill’s eulogy had a basis in reality, every class-conscious proletarian would be duty-bound to join him in mourning Paul Foot’s death and in sadness at the consequent loss to the movement. Here lies the rub. Although it is the height of bad manners to speak ill of the dead, we are put in this awful situation by Scargill’s utter distortion of the facts.
Undoubtedly, Paul Foot was possessed of much wit, charm intelligence and journalistic skill – perhaps even fun to share a joke with over a drink. As regards his politics, he was a committed Trotkyist and a long-standing member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which is even more counter-revolutionary, and this is saying something, then the average Trotskyist organisation. The SWP, and Paul Foot as one of its leaders, has denounced and fought against socialism, from the USSR and Eastern Europe to China, Vietnam, the DPRK and Cuba – all of it, of course, in the name of some convoluted ‘Marxism’ and socialism. This being the case, how can one paint such a person in socialist colours and characterise his life as “an inspiration to people” in Britain and abroad. Far from wanting to see “… an end to the rotten capitalist system”, as Scargill would have us believe, the SWP, and Paul Foot with it, worked tirelessly for the restoration of this “rotten capitalist system” in the countries where socialism had been established. Precisely for this reason the entire SWP, including Paul, greeted with delirious joy the restoration of capitalism in the former lands of socialism. Precisely for this reason, the SWP continues to denounce existing socialism as state capitalist regimes, and to call for their overthrow.
Paul Foot was a petty-bourgeois radical, a worthy member of the SWP, and in essence an enemy of proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. And if these traits of Paul Foot endear him to Scargill, there is absolutely no reason for the revolutionary proletariat and the mass of oppressed humanity anywhere in the world to join Scargill in praising to the skies the late Paul Foot as an “outstanding” and “committed socialist”. Scargill’s tribute to Paul Foot reveals more about the former’s social democratic politics and less about the allegedly impeccable socialist credentials of the latter.