Party notes

LSA beacon

There is just one week to the Greater London Authority elections on May 4.

We have a good number of Communist Party comrades from around the country coming to the capital to help the London Socialist Alliance's final push up to polling day - we urge more to commit time to the final stages of the campaign. Accommodation and other details can be sorted out. We also need the active involvement of comrades who read and sympathise with our paper. Together we have a chance to make a real impact for revolutionary politics and principled left unity.

A great opportunity is being presented to the revolutionary left with this election.

First, to emulate the success of the Scottish Socialist Party's electoral breakthrough. Whatever our criticisms of the political platform that Tommy Sheridan stands on, the fact that he has won a seat in the Scottish parliament is a gain for independent working class politics throughout the UK. Winning GLA seats will have an even greater impact.

Second, the SSP also points the way beyond the sectarian desert that the left has exiled itself to. Open factions are allowed in its structures and can openly publish their views. This is positive, even if in the SSP it is a reflection of a rightist political project rather than any genuine understanding of democratic centralism. As Tommy Sheridan underlined at the April 13 LSA rally, democracy allows the SSP to be more than the sum of its individual parts - "it allows the organisation of trends of opinion, allows platforms, allows dissent, but with a united programme", as he put it (Weekly Worker April 20).

Already, the LSA has started to tentatively move towards organisational arrangements redolent more of a party-type formation than simply an electoral bloc. For example, its April 18 meeting unanimously passed a resolution that subordinates elected LSA candidates - making them instantly recallable and subject to regular democratic review - to the LSA as a body, rather than simply the individual political organisation they happen to be a member of.

If for no other reason, the LSA has been a success for having made a small breach in the sect walls that in today's Britain divide revolutionary cadre from each other and - more importantly - from the working class itself. However, the signs are that LSA can be far more than symbolically successful, as indicated by some of the more edgy comments it is drawing from various bourgeois media pundits.

Writing in the New Statesman of April 24, John Lloyd - ex-member of the genuinely loony Maoist group, the British and Irish Communist Organisation - surveys contemporary politics and wonders, "Are the loonies coming back?" He cites Livingstone's campaign. He notes it is "supported by . the LSA, a coalition of mainly Marxist parties, including the SWP and the CPGB". Wales gives him some cause for concern after the "internal coup" that has installed Rhodri Morgan, "a figure well to the left of . New Labour". Sheridan's Scottish Socialist Party causes even more anxiety, as it has "equality as a central tenet - to the point of illustrating its website with a painting of a Soviet demonstration, a kind of subliminal endorsement of the great totalitarian, but egalitarian, regime of the last century".

Drawing all these trends together, he concludes that "Next month [ie, May], the left will have a very large base, thanks in part to the growth of proportional representation. It has some new clothes, over some old nostrums, but it is back."

Likewise, David Aaronovitch - now a toady Blairite creep, once a distasteful Euro student leader in the Communist Party - has the gumption to realise that "the mad, counterproductive gerrymandering of Labour's candidate for London mayor has produced a likely winner in an independent-left candidate [Livingstone] with historic links to the revolutionary left" (all quotes The Independent April 19). A layer of disillusioned Labour voters has become more "open to the idea of an alternative". And who can frame such an alternative? The "sects, groupuscules and tendencies of the revolutionary left", he sighs.

He recounts a "tortuous cyber-trail" that begins with the LSA website's links sections. First port of call is the site of the Communist Party of Great Britain ("not the old one", he assures his readers, like all ex-Party opportunists do. No, the "new Trotskyist one"). From this, he learns the constituent elements of the LSA (although he has a little difficulty with some names - specifically the AWL, ILN and SPEW). He then learns how "the positions on the LSA slate had been divvied up", correctly listing the first eight comrades on the London slate in descending order and even matching the candidates to their political organisations. (It seems that 'Scoop' Aaronovitch can copy a list of eight names more or less accurately - a prize for investigative journalism surely beckons.) He stumbles badly at the last fence however and tells us the slate tails off with "some unfortunate from SPEW". In fact, there are no Socialist Party comrades on the LSA list. Presumably Aaronovitch is referring to Mark Steel of the SWP who is unlikely to take kindly to being designated as "SPEW". (Tough luck, Dave - maybe next year for that prize).

Of course, Aaronovitch's piece is not intended as a serious study of the LSA - the man is incapable of it. It is a lame red-baiting article. He feebly attempts to shock readers with observations of the calibre of: "Ken could probably do without friends whose manifestos begin, as the CPGB's does, 'The working class in Britain needs to strike as a fist', and goes on the extol the dictatorship of the working class over rule by parliament." Paul Foot is accused of "Mugabeism" for his perfectly correct call on Rover - "Occupy, nationalise, fight for the right to work". The SWP's vision of a socialist society is dubbed a "Cheka au Callinicos". And so it drags on.

However, Aaronovitch - despite himself - manages to make one interesting point, even if snidely. The very fact of the existence of the Alliance seems to him "miraculous . given how much [the left groups] all hate each other".

The CPGB has emphasised again and again that the unity of the left - despite our many differences - is a positive strength. As our list candidate, Anne Murphy, puts it in a statement on the LSA website, "The coming together of the LSA sends out a message of confidence to all those who want fundamental change . [it] has the possibility of creating a social movement way beyond our present numbers. Unity is vital - a unity that is open and democratic." Mike Marqusee underlined the same point at the April 13 rally: "Diversity is a strength and does not diminish unity in action" (Weekly Worker April 20).

It other words, whatever its limitations, the experience of the LSA points beyond the sect impasse that has plagued revolutionaries for much of the 20th century.

None of this is automatic. It relies on what we are able to do, how hard we work for it. Again, we urge comrades that have seen a beacon in the development of the LSA to commit some time and work to fighting for a victory on May 4.

Mark Fischer
national organiser