Globalise Resistance, the Socialist Workers Party's anti-capitalist 'united-front', held its annual conference on May 19. James Mallory reports
A range of topics, including Palestine and Argentina, were discussed, with just over 100 people in attendance. However, over half were middle-aged and clearly either members of left groups (overwhelmingly SWP, along with a group of Workers Power comrades) or among those in their immediate periphery. The size and composition of the conference clearly reflects GR's underlying weakness. Despite this there were some positive aspects of the day. Some speakers were of a high calibre (for example, Leila Khaled) and at least some time was allowed for debate in all the sessions. There were few signs of overt censorship of differing views coming from other left groups. However, contributions from the floor were still limited to two or three minutes. This is a familiar complaint of seasoned veterans of events organised under the auspices of the SWP. Obvious limitations on the scope of the debate result from this 'quantity over quality' approach. It forces speakers to limit themselves to sound bites or single points instead of encouraging them to develop a thought through argument. Unsurprisingly, many speakers from the floor were chosen SWP members. By and large they took the opportunity to pose left in an attempt to appeal to the small constituency of potential recruits present. When doing so, they announced their affiliation. When not, they were rather more coy. This lent proceedings something of a surreal character. For example, in the meeting on 'Fighting euro-fascism' an SWPer, without blushing, spoke against the Anti-Nazi League's 'Don't vote Nazi' line. Of course, it is the SWP that is responsible for saddling the ANL with that line. Then again, it is not exactly unknown for the SWP to adopt different lines for different 'united fronts'. As well as suffering from limitations of a self-imposed nature, GR is also held back by objective circumstances. In Britain the anti-capitalist movement is noticeably less vigorous than elsewhere. The European anti-capitalist movement features new layers being drawn into action alongside sections of the working class, which, with its militant socialist and communist traditions, has begun to stir in response to the attacks rained down on it by governments of various hues. For example, last December in Brussels, the anti-capitalist demonstration, marching separately from the mainly trade union-backed event, was only 20,000-strong. Three months later, the organised left and trade union contingent formed a sizeable part of the 500,000 who marched in Barcelona. A key question is how this gap between the continent and Britain can be bridged. Of course, this is largely a programmatic question outside the scope of this article. But it is here that GR has little to offer, since its role has been to act as a transmission belt into the SWP sect. As such, allowing it to develop independent political positions is pointless and, more to the point, dangerous. GR can attract reasonable speakers to its events and gather together contingents to travel to various events. But, when it comes to politically intervening (that is intervening to win positions and hegemony) within the anti-capitalist movement, it is politically crippled (in a similar way to the ANL). Contrast this with the situation in Italy. Rifondazione Comunista is one of the dominating forces within the anti-capitalist movement. It is not a politically stunted 'united front of a special type', but a political party with a programme. Its existence as a party allows it to intervene in and interact with the emerging movement at a higher level. The movement itself is strengthened as a result. A lesson should be learned from Italy. We should look to intervene in movements in a similarly rounded and partyist way. Concretely that means building the Socialist Alliance in both an organisational and political sense rather than looking for solutions in politically impoverished 'united fronts'.