Candidates from the London Socialist Alliance demonstrated on March 30 outside the Soho offices of Alchemy Partners, the asset-strippers overseeing the dismantling of the Rover car plant at Longbridge.
Calling for the nationalisation of Rover under workers' control and for the occupation of the Longbridge plant, the LSA candidates were supported by more than 50 LSA activists and supporters. The candidates made the point that the LSA is standing in these elections for the Greater London Assembly to support and further the struggles of the working class against not only the employers but, crucially, their state led by Her Majesty's prime minister, Tony Blair.
The message from the LSA to Rover workers is that there can be no trust in the trade union leaders, who are already preparing to sell off conditions in the hope of minimising the impact the takeover will have on the working class throughout the Midlands. Such an approach is pathetic, given the scale of the onslaught against Rover workers.
With the car industry facing massive restructuring, Ford at Dagenham is already making noises about downscaling. Given the recent re-emergence of militancy at Dagenham, Ford is trying to use the attack at Longbridge as its opportunity to push back conditions at its east London plant. Clearly, the struggle at Longbridge must not become regionalist - an industry-wide response across Britain and the European Union is needed.
The London Socialist Alliance must rally around besieged workers in the car industry and push the fight beyond the realms of the economy and to the very heart of New Labour Britain.
If the left is to carve out a meaningful space in British politics, it must move beyond the role of cheerleader for the latest economic struggle of the working class.Marcus Larsen
Spread London model
Our London Socialist Alliance meeting of April 4 was businesslike and encouraging. Comrades discussed preparations for the activists' conference on April 10, with an extra youth workshop now added on the suggestion of Workers Power. Press packs and CDs with biographical details of our candidates are ready, along with a 10-minute campaign video featuring extracts from speeches at the February 22 launch rally, intercut with footage of Blair's vacuous soundbites (all materials available from LSA office).
There were two key discussions on the night. First, how to start the process of involving the new people who have signed up for the LSA. Second, where does the LSA go after the May 4 Greater London Assembly elections?
Comrade Rob Hoveman of the Socialist Workers Party observed that so far, only a "relatively thin" layer of these potential new supporters - some 3,000 on paper - had been tapped. Essentially the solution comrades from the SWP lean towards is to take the LSA lower and deeper into local communities. Communist Party comrades active in local alliances report there has been a concerted effort to create organisational structures focussed on estates or even particular streets.
This may help firm up the electoral support of the LSA to a certain extent, although it is also highlighting the extreme patchiness of the left's organisation in London, including the SWP's. However, it seems unlikely to call forth scores of new activists in the short term. After 20 years-plus of working class defeats, we are in a period of passive protest, expressed in the ballot box or through abstention. Thus, while highly localised work has its place, the LSA must not downplay efforts to make an impact on a London and nationwide level. This is the best way to impart confidence to new contacts and mobilise our support.
A tentative discussion was begun on the future of the LSA after this electoral challenge. Comrades stressed that much depended on what actually happened on May 4. If LSAers are elected - which is likely - the LSA must evolve. Marcus Larsen of the CPGB reminded comrades that in principle we have already agreed to pass a resolution committing any successful candidate to be recallable by the LSA and to be bound to give an account of themselves at an annual conference.
Whether the LSA remains essentially a top-down electoral bloc between left groups or starts to develop organically from below is also an open question. However, the positive attitude on display from all the organisations present (the Socialist Party was absent) indicates that there is a real commitment to a continuing project of left unity. "Even if we don't win a seat on May 4," joked comrade Greg Tucker of the International Socialist Group, "we hope the SWP does not disappear for another 20 years." Fortunately, at the moment, there are no indications that this is the plan.
The meeting provisionally agreed an LSA conference for the end of May/beginning of June to assess the way forward. As comrade Hoveman noted, a success in the GLA elections for us could establish the LSA as a "possible model" for other unity initiatives around the country. Already, it is reported that Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party and the anaemic Socialist Alliance network is speaking of the need to spread the "London model".
Money remains tight. As we approach polling day, naturally our campaigning activities are being stepped up. If anything, the need for finance-raising increases in this period and we must ensure that this task is not swamped in the rush to make a political impact. The London-wide rally on April 13 should be an opportunity to boost the coffers of the campaign, and local groups and participating organisations are to be encouraged to come armed with cash for the collection.
Three extra speakers were agreed for this rally - Anne Murphy of the CPGB, Janine Booth of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty and Kate Ford of WP. Speakers from Rover and/or Dagenham were also floated, although details are to be con-firmed.Mark Fischer
One of the grassroots public meeting organised by the LSA's North East constituency was attended by 14 people on March 29 in Walthamstow's Ross Wyld Hall. Speakers included local candidate Cecilia Prosper (SWP), LSA slate candidate Kate Ford (WP) and Shoreditch New Deal Trust activist Eugene Francis.
Both comrade Prosper and comrade Ford dealt mainly with a number of economic issues in their speeches, condemning in particular cuts in health and education. Each argued for a workers' fightback against such government attacks.
Bob Paul from the Communist Party spoke of how the LSA was in a prime position to tackle a number of wider issues during the run-up to the elections, including our understanding of workers' democracy. The meeting accepted the importance of accountability and workers' representatives being subject to recall.
Perhaps one of the most positive aspects of the evening was the open nature of the meeting. Eugene Francis, for example, despite openly declaring his membership of the Labour Party, was allowed to present his views. This followed remarks from comrade Prosper, who spoke of her "disappointment" with the Labour Party for not having produced better results for workers since its time in office. Indeed, there was general acceptance from all platform speakers that, prior to the GLA elections, voting Labour was an automatic and natural thing for workers to do.
There was also a good debate around the issue of asylum-seekers. This was initially raised by comrade Paul, who stressed the importance of highlighting the LSA's clear call for open borders as an answer to the current government and media campaign of chauvinism. This point was also taken up by an ex-refugee from Chile, who emphasised the need not to have any expectations in the Labour Party producing political and economic rights for those seeking asylum.Gareth Phillips