WeeklyWorker

12.02.1998
Michael Hindley

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.

Peter Manson