Friday, 19 June 2009

working towards left unity

On Wednesday evening I was at the SWP-hosted meeting in Tyneside, inviting people to discuss the prospects for left unity and developing electoral alternatives to New Labour. Around 25 people showed up, including several key local union and campaign activists.

A PCS activist referred to his union's declared support for the principle of standing (and helping fund) candidates who share the values of the union movement. He specifically floated the idea of standing a socialist candidate in Newcastle Central, where Labour MP Jim Cousins - who voted against the war in Iraq - is stepping down at the next election.

A UCU activist reported from last weekend's 'Fight for the Right to Work' conference. If a major campaign develops against rising unemployment, it will provide a vital context in which to build left-wing alternatives with roots in militant struggle and resistance. Existing protest movements - most obviously the anti-war movement - already provide fertile ground for cultivating electoral campaigns.

Someone else suggested the key thing is that we don't merely reproduce the old Socialist Alliance of several years ago, which would limit any new initiative to existing far left groups plus a handful of others. The potential is greater than that - and any new formation has to be energised by participation in a range of campaigns and movements. A new left project should be the child of anti-fascist and pro-Palestine campaigns, of the student occupations for Gaza and the growing resistance to save workers' jobs.

It's uncertain how this will all play out, but we took a first step in the right direction this week.


  1. You are going to get a get of lot of cynicism about this. After the Socialist Alliance (the involvement of 'independents' such as Liz Davies shouldn't be downplayed as much as you do) and Respect why should people trust you? Why shouldn't we think this is just SWP brand-positioning?

  2. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's a great deal of trust between anyone on the left. But there's also a very noticeable desire right now for some degreee of unity. Our expectations need to be realistic, but we shouldn't let the moment slip away from us.

    The Socialist ALliance wasn't entirely without success. I remember the excitement and hope of campaigning in the 2001 general election, but I also remember the disappointment on election night. Respect was far more successful, however it ended. We need to be careful not to revert to a pre-Respect model and level of expectation.