The notable absence of the Socialist Workers Party's Mark Steele marked the January 23 meeting to launch Luton South's perspective parliamentary candidate.
The comedian cum politician was billed to put in an appearance, but was unable to make it after all. This would not have caused the flutter of an eyelid, were it not for the ugly rumours circulating about internal tensions within the local SWP branch, on top of the uneasy SWP relationship with other local alliance components. The SWP has been accused of bureaucratic manoeuvres and ignoring the SA over the Vauxhall dispute.
However, the meeting passed off relatively smoothly.
Steve Freeman (Revolutionary Democratic Group and SA Liaison Committee member) stood in for comrade Steele and made a speech which informed comrades about the situation nationally, and commented on the issue of Vauxhall.
Comrade Freeman quite rightly stressed the need to advance the struggle of the Vauxhall workers beyond the confines of an industrial issue and bring it onto the political field by linking it to the Socialist Alliance election campaign both locally and nationally.
The importance of this point was emphasised by the next speaker, comrade Jack Jones, a shop steward at the threatened plant. The comrade brought the meeting up to date with details of the current situation and emphasised that he felt this could be "the end of car production in Britain".
He specifically and repeatedly emphasised the "industrial" nature of the dispute. He stressed the need for the Vauxhall workers to be "in the lead", but then went on to call for a broad campaign with "no class divisions", justifying this on the basis of the slogan, 'united we stand, divided we fall'.
This should serve as a good illustration to all those who have illusions in spontaneous struggle. It is a million miles away from fully formed class consciousness. It is, however, an understandable position from the standpoint of workers desperate for any support that they can get in the battle to save their jobs, in the absence of a left which is willing and able to take the lead in such battles and develop them with a broader political vision. At present the left is able to offer workers like those at Vauxhall little more than practical solidarity.
The solidarity that is developing across Europe could yet help to break the campaign from its 'community-based' narrowness. This solidarity in turn points the way for more far-reaching developments towards a European TUC and a Communist Party of the European Union.
The final speaker of the evening was Joe Hearne, the alliance's prospective parliamentary candidate, who did emphasise the class basis of the SA campaign.
Speakers from the floor included an Alliance for Workers' Liberty comrade, who proposed regular SA meetings to debate current issues. This proposal, which was not rejected but left for further discussion, would in my opinion be a positive step and should provide a blueprint for the Socialist Alliance nationally. It would allow the ideas of the different groups to be put forward and encourage those new to the alliance to express their points of view.