From words to deeds
Graham Bash calls for votes and support for Labour's anti-war candidates
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx wrote this in 1845 and it really is about time the Weekly Worker caught on. In the next four weeks there will be plenty of analysis about the coming general election in the pages of this paper. But what action will follow? This is not a plea for mindless activism, but a polite request for comrades to move from mere words to deeds as well. I am painfully aware how little space there is for socialist activity during the election, how deep the crisis of representation is and what little difference exists between the major political parties. We have been forced onto the margins, but at those margins, inactivity is not an option. In contrast to what that opportunist Paul Marsden suggests, the democratic space in the Labour Party has remained about the same over the last few years - that is, very little. But quite clearly, some space does exist within the party and we have to utilise it. To be silent and to abstain from the elections means to be defeated without a fight. What do we do? Our first aim must surely be to return as many socialist MPs as possible. How do we define socialist? There will be little difference on that. Weekly Worker has argued - and I agree - that the fault line is the war on Iraq and the continued occupation. There were 140 MPs (including Dennis Skinner, who was unable to vote because he was undergoing open heart surgery) who voted against the war. Obviously, some of those now support the occupation - Harry Barnes is an obvious example. If you extend the issues to include opposition to tuition fees and foundation hospitals, the number goes down to 38, of which 34 will be standing at the next election. To these must be added a few new parliamentary candidates, such as Katy Clarke, who could be reckoned to be on our side on these issues. I understand and agree with those who argue that we should not be actively supporting New Labour candidates who supported the war, tuition fees and foundation hospitals. The Labour Representation Committee has come out with a minimum attractive socialist programme, which has been distributed within the movement and shows that there is a coherent opposition to the Labour leadership: * An end to occupation of Iraq. * Restoration of employment rights. * Abolition of student fees and an end to selection. * Significant increase in basic state pension. * An end to privatisation and restoration of public ownership of rail. * Direct investment in council housing. (www.l-r-c.org.uk). I cannot begin to understand any argument against supporting candidates who are on our side on these issues. If one of the aims at the next elections is to return as many socialist MPs as possible - who stood on the right side of the class divide - it means supporting the Labour left. The only other candidate who could possibly come into this category is George Galloway in Bethnal Green and Bow. For reasons I have previously outlined, I cannot as a Labour Party member support George's candidature. But I understand why many outside the Labour Party would do so, despite George's own political limitations, to say the least. But it is no good supporting the Labour left (or George Galloway) as a point of principle or something correct in theory. Principles and theory will count for nothing, unless comrades are actually prepared to go out on the streets in the next month. For my own part, I will join with others (supporters of Labour Left Briefing, Labour Against the War and the Labour Representation Committee) in forming flying canvassers: we will be going from constituency to constituency, canvassing for Labour left candidates, especially those in marginal seats, like John Cryer in Hornchurch and Bob Marshall-Andrews in Medway, as well as supporting leaders of the Labour left such as John McDonnell. In addition, I shall also support Diane Abbott in my own constituency, despite my differences with her on private education. And it is not just the effect on the world that we have that is important - it is also the effect the world has on us. To go out canvassing and then get the response, 'I'm not voting Labour because of that fucking Ken Livingstone', or 'It's all the bloody immigrants', is a sobering experience. But a dose of reality, however occasional, does no harm - like exercise really. Issues are raised on the doorstep with which we must engage and come up with answers. We ignore these questions at our peril. But our attitude to activity in the general election goes beyond supporting individual candidates. General elections are about electing governments. You could take an ultra-left line, which states that there is no class difference between the Conservatives and the Labour Party. This of course is becoming increasingly true. The class base of the Labour Party has become severely eroded, but it still exists. And for that reason I believe it right to call for the election of a Labour government, while at the same time speaking clearly and loudly against the subservience of the Labour leadership to the interests of imperialism and British capitalism. I am at Hornchurch next Sunday - see you there?