I’m not going to apologies for returning to the English Left once again, for whilst it might enrage and frustrate me at times, it is a vital component of the UK’s democracy. When I write about the left in a critical manner I never lose sight of the fact that without the fractious group of comrades who make it up, there would have been no organized opposition in the UK to the invasion of Iraq and countless other vital campaigns would cease to exists, not least street level anti racism work and support for asylum seekers. It also has some wonderful militants within its ranks who are daily engaged in a multitude of struggles helping to make this world a better and more equal place.
Having said all this as far as the English Left and Party building is concerned, it is becoming increasingly a case of to many chiefs and not enough Indians. In London alone at the weekend there were four sizable gatherings of left socialists. The Labour Representative Committee drew approximately 300 comrades to their conference, their main speakers were Tony Benn and John McDonnell MP, plus Joe Marino, Matt Wrack and Mark Serwotka from the trade union leadership’s. One of the two waring factions from the Respect Party [Renewal] drew 300 plus leftists to it’s rally, amongst them George Galloway, Ken Loach, and Salma Yaqoob. The Socialist Party claimed around 1000 comrades at their Socialist 2007 event, which also had Matt Wrack and Mark Serwotka on its speakers list as to did the SWP faction of the Respect Party which claimed to have over 350 at it’s rally.
That is approximately 2000 left-wing socialists whose differences on the main political issues of the day you could not get a cigaret paper between. Yet they chose to attend four different and competing political events, which in itself highlights the current dismal situation on the English left as far as building a new Left Party is concerned. And this at a time when socialism is a distant memory for the British Labour Party; and both the Blair and Brown Labour governments have brought in legislation which would have made a Conservative Government of the 1950-60s look like ultra leftists.
Its is shocking to say the least that the English left is unable to put aside what are mainly personal and organizational differences at a time when the gap between the economically rich and poor in the UK is widening by the day, civil and democratic rights are coming under a constant onslaught on the pretext of protecting the public from terrorism; and ever more of the UK’s essential social infrastructure is being placed into the hands of multi-national corporations. It is impossible not to conclude that for some who hold leading positions on the left, this refusal to come to terms with the UK’s political reality displays a subconscious contempt for the needs of the working classes.
It is not as if the aforementioned organization’s and political party’s are unaware of the vital need for a new Left Party that will represent the working classes. For Mark Serwotka who spoke at three of the four aforementioned events spelt this fact out clearly. No it is the ultra left curse of certainty, there can be only one road for many of these leading comrades and it must be their road. In many cases the road they are asking the 21st century working classes to follow was first laid down by some old beard at the beginning of the 20th century and simply does not apply to todays world situation in which the Western working class is no longer a single homogeneous block.
That unity really is strength, something trade unionists learn when they first enter the Labour Movement, seems to have passed some leading comrades by, although to be fair to many of them there are historical reasons why they have become so dogmatic. But times have changed and the dead weight of Stalinism is no longer around the socialist movements neck. In some ways the split in the Respect Party might be fortuitous and have done the left a favor, for it may have been the wake up call we all need. Although the fact that both of the Respect Party factions held rallies and not party building conferences was hardly encouraging, for we cannot go on building mini theifdom’s devoid of democratic accountability, which have no hope of attracting even modest support from the working classes.
If those leftists took anything away with them from their respective rallies then I hope it is this, yes there are the numbers to build a new left party, yes there is the energy and commitment, what is lacking is the leadership to bring such a Left Party into being. Comrades must demand of those who lead the group that they belong to that they organize a Unity conference for all leftist, out of which a new Left Party must emerge, more of the same is no longer a viable option. If they refuse to carry out this necessary task, then comrades your leaders are vainglorious enemies of the working class…….