London Left Unity
Last week’s launch of the all-London Socialist Alliance signals the start of a real fightback against Blair
Around 80 people - representatives of left groups as well as many unattached individuals - attended the launch of the London Socialist Alliance on February 4.
Addressed from the platform by Labour MEP Michael Hindley and Julia Leonard, the Hillingdon Socialist Party councillor, the meeting debated the tasks for the left, under conditions of New Labour’s retreat from even the pretence of standing for the interests of the working class.
Anne Murphy of the Brent Socialist Alliance and the CPGB, opened the meeting with some brief remarks from the chair. She read out several messages of support, including from Ken Coates MEP and Hugh Kerr MEP, both recently expelled from the Labour Party (two London MEPs, Shaun Spiers and Anita Pollack, also sent messages).
Michael Hindley welcomed the “increasing mood to realign the left”. He said that Tony Blair himself was “the biggest realigner of politics in this country” and gave three reasons why conditions were right for a new grouping. The ever more globalised economy, he said, made the achievement of working class gains less and less possible within one capitalist country. Secondly - and connected to globalisation - the intensification of the attacks on the welfare state was producing its opposition and disaffection with New Labour. He described the revolt of 47 Labour MPs against the cuts in single parent benefit as “a turning point in British history’’. Thirdly, the likely introduction of proportional representation would give realignment an added impetus.
Hindley expressed the opinion that left realignment must not break from “organised labour through the trade union link”, and warned that it “must respect accidental and subjective loyalties”, allowing for people from different origins to make the break from Labour at different speeds.
Julia Leonard too spoke of the growing disillusionment with New Labour - especially amongst young people and students - which she described as a purely capitalist party.
Hannah Sell, the Socialist Party’s campaigns organiser, was the first speaker from the floor. She was enthusiastic about the potential of the London Socialist Alliance, viewing its role as supporting and uniting behind the spontaneous struggles of the working class.
This rather narrow view was echoed by Mark Sandel, the representative of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, but was countered by John Bridge of the CPGB, who stressed the importance of going beyond spontaneity. Blairism must in the last analysis be defeated programmatically. A programme cannot be imposed and the fragmentation of the left would prevent it in any case. But a revolutionary programme had to be developed and tested in the course of practice.
Although there was no official representative of the Socialist Labour Party present, thecontinuing influence of the SLP’s formation was clearly felt at the meeting, in the shape of campaigns and breakaways. Former SLP councillor Ian Driver, now a member of the Socialist Democracy Group, and voided SLP oppositionist Dave Osler both spoke of the failure of the Scargill project and the need to build the Socialist Alliances.
Marcus Larsen from the SLP’s Democratic Platform pointed out that the failure of the party to live up to expectations could be laid at the door of its sectarian leadership. By refusing to countenance any alliances such as the present “excellent initiative”, the Scargill SLP risked being sidelined, he said. The SLP Marxist Bulletin comrade, Barbara Duke, also welcomed the new formation, but said it would serve no purpose whatsoever unless it defined itself as anti-Labour.
This was strongly opposed by Bob Pitt, the editor of What Next? He believes that the best way to work for a mass, socially significant break from Labourism is to continue to operate inside the Labour Party and advocate a Labour vote. Robin Blackburn, editor of New Left Review, also thought that there should be no question of opposing ‘left’ Labour candidates such as Ken Livingstone, but drew great inspiration from recent demonstrations, occupations and strikes in Europe - in particular France and Germany. There had to be a European perspective.
Other speakers included Pete Brown, Hugh Kerr’s political organiser, Charlie Pottins, formerly of the WRP,comrades from Socialist Outlook and Workers Power and Malkiat Bikhu, a leader of the Hillingdon hospital strikers. The meeting raised £78 for the Hillingdon workers.