Operation Red Flag

Electorally we are mounting one of the biggest leftwing challenges to the Labour-Tory political establishment ever. Operation Red Flag.

Electorally we are mounting one of the biggest leftwing challenges to the Labour-Tory political establishment ever. Operation Red Flag.

There has not been anything on the scale of the 170 Socialist Alliance, Welsh Socialist Alliance and Scottish Socialist Party candidates since the Independent Labour Party?s split from Labour in the 1930s or the Communist Party of Great Britain?s 1950 general election campaign. In total we are contesting around 25% of all seats.

Yet none of us expect a dramatic breakthrough - if by that one means MPs and forming a strong parliamentary fraction.

Objectively conditions for our forces could hardly be more auspicious. The Tories remain strategically diminished and enfeebled. Hague shows no signs of being able to reverse Labour?s massive 1997 majority. His is merely the party of petty bourgeois fear. Fear of devolution, fear of the euro, fear of illegal drugs, fear of immigrants, fear of rational thought, fear of the future.

Few traditional - class-conscious - Labour voters therefore worry that a Socialist Alliance vote might let in the Tories. These people - along with first-time voters and anti-establishment non-voters - constitute our priority target audience. And, of course, the record of Tony Blair?s government has disgusted millions of them: fawning before big business, the growing gap between rich and poor, maintaining Thatcher?s anti-trade union laws, Straw?s attacks on asylum-seekers, etc.

However, subjectively things are still dire. There has been no upturn in the class struggle. Nor a crisis of expectations. Trade union militancy is at historically low levels. Socialist consciousness hardly exists. As to anti-capitalism, it is more a sentiment than a movement. For the present it actively involves negligible forces.

That is why the electoral tactic is of such vital importance. From being a method used by the bourgeoisie to befuddle, elections can be turned into a wonderfully potent weapon against the bourgeoisie. Instead of leaving atomised wage slaves to demoralisingly choose the lesser evil, the Socialist Alliance-Welsh Socialist Alliance-Scottish Socialist Party shows that an alternative exists. Propitious. Audacious. Emboldening.

Standing in elections gives revolutionary socialists and communists a brilliant opportunity to agitate, to educate, to organise. We can employ the election tactic to shift working class opinion to the left and to our own positive anti-capitalism.

Every Weekly Worker reader should consider it beholden upon them to get fully involved in the Socialist Alliance?s general election campaign. Donate money - either directly or via the CPGB. Donate time - take holidays early, go sick. Donate your political and organisational skills - join.

The Socialist Alliance, Welsh Socialist Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party will together judge success not only in crude polling figures. Achieving a target of 250,000 votes and statistically putting the SA into the frontline of the national ?fringe? parties would be great. But success must primarily be measured in less tangible ways.

The Socialist Alliance is taking the lead in reviving and renewing socialist ideas on a mass scale. Some five million people are due to receive our election material before June 7. Millions more will watch or listen to the Ken Loach-directed party political broadcast on May 22. Sales of the Socialist Alliance?s manifesto are expected to reach at least 30,000.

Interest in socialism - low though it might be - is palpably growing even at this early stage of the campaign. Circulation of the Weekly Worker and hits on our website have certainly shown a dramatic upturn. It is bound to be the same with Socialist Worker and other pro-Socialist Alliance publications.

But the key to everything is organisation and deepening the unity of the Socialist Alliance. Thousands of new members are sure to be signed up. They must become activists. Something only possible if the local Socialist Alliances are built as an integral part of an ongoing process of rapprochement between the supporting factions and the eventual founding of a united party. A fully democratic and centralised all-Britain party within which, we ought to emphasise, comrades in Scotland and Wales would exercise autonomy.

Of course, the most consistent advocate of that crucial aim is the CPGB. Our Leninist principle is ?One state, one party?. Partisans of workers? unity and a Socialist Alliance party will therefore be glad to hear that the CPGB has also experienced a marked increase in membership applications. Our position as the ?third force? within the Socialist Alliance is thereby being rapidly consolidated. Equally germane, the partyist ideas of the CPGB are gaining widespread support amongst our allies. A Socialist Alliance political paper. A national HQ. Trade union left unity.

Hopefully gains made by the Socialist Alliance-Welsh Socialist Alliance-Scottish Socialist Party bloc will confirm the marginalisation of Arthur Scargill?s Socialist Labour Party. It is true that amongst older voters Scargill retains respect for the gallant role he played in the 1984-85 miners? Great Strike. It is also true that we have no individual of his stature within our ranks. Neither Dave Nellist nor Paul Foot, neither Tommy Sheridan nor Dave Church has won the same instant recognition.

Nevertheless Scargill represents the past. His socialism is reformist, anti-democratic and thoroughly bureaucratic. Worse, this would-be labour dictator personifies sectarianism of the worst kind. Scargill has surrounded himself with out-and-out Stalinites - members of the Stalin Society like Harpal Brar. Scargill flatly rejects all offers of unity in the Socialist Alliance and cynically insists on pitting socialist candidate against socialist candidate. Our countless offers to open negotiations so as to avoid such pointless contests have not even met with a reply.

On balance it has to be right to critically vote for Scargill in Hartlepool. Old Labour versus New Labour. The same goes for other Socialist Labour candidates - and Labour Party leftwingers like Jeremy Corbyn - where no one from the Socialist Alliance is standing.

Not all of Scargill?s candidates are sectarians, however. Some are sincere, albeit naive. Where there is a clash, our comrades ought to take the initiative. Ask them to stand down and give their backing to a single socialist candidate. Visit. Talk patiently. Tell them about Scargill?s sectarianism and ultra-Stalinite friends. Emphasise the mutual advantages of unity.

With three weeks of the general election campaign to go a number of key tasks present themselves.

Finish the first, explanatory  leaflet drop. Ensure that Royal Mail is quickly supplied with the candidate?s free mail-out. Set up street stalls in every shopping centre and outside every station. Use the May 22 election broadcast for a blitz on door-to-door canvassing. Sell the manifesto. Take note of political attitudes, not just voting intentions.

Final week: one last leaflet - update themes and issues. Revisit or telephone ?yes? voters and floaters.

June 7: loudspeakers, cars for the elderly or infirm. Simple Socialist Alliance flyer to be handed out near polling stations - at a safe distance where there is police tolerance or a blind eye.

Above all, recruit, organise and promote unity throughout.

Jack Conrad