No longer pretending?

Chris Strafford dissects the Left List

On Tuesday April 22 the Socialist Workers Party’s Left List election broadcast for the London assembly was aired.

It undoubtedly contained positives. Paul Fredericks used the broadcast to call for support of the one day-strike by civil servants and education workers and to promote the Love Music, Hate Racism event. Also Tansy Hoskins, showing that the popular frontism of the SWP is to the left of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s, called for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But she also called for London to become a city of peace. What socialists should be calling for is a city of struggle against capital, the British state and imperialism.

However, what was less positive about this election broadcast was that it was full of the usual watered-down politics and failure to say what is. At the beginning Lindsey German declared she has been a “campaigner” all her life - strangely vague, considering that she is a leading member of a supposedly revolutionary socialist organisation.

What is wrong with socialists calling themselves socialists? It is not as though this dissimilation will win her thousands of votes. She will probably do worse than Respect Renewal and much worse than in 2004, when she came very close to election at the top of Respect’s list and she could at least claim that such left populism might have seen her home.

German claimed credit for organising all the big anti-war demonstrations over the last few years. Yes, she was certainly deeply involved in their organisation. However, it was neither the Stop the War Coalition nor the SWP nor Lindsey German who were responsible for the huge numbers.

The anti-war upsurge owed more to the split in the ruling class over the Iraq invasion than to comrade German’s organisational skills. As for her political skills, the SWP’s leadership of the STWC and its clear lack of strategy has left thousands demoralised - numbers alone could never stop the war and the activists knew it. And we have seen where the SWP’s wrecking of the Socialist Alliance and attempts to channel the activists into Respect has led. Left populism was always going to be a dead end.

The Left List candidates talk about a more equal London, condemn the poverty and exploitation, and blame New Labour and big business. But it goes without saying that there is no attempt to inspire Londoners with a vision of a future world without capital, wage-labour and alienation. It is not the task of revolutionaries to ape Green Party sentiments against big business and create illusions in a more human capitalism with nice, small enterprises.

The main problem is that the broadcast really did not say much at all. It is four and a half minutes of platitudes, almost completely lacking in substance. Why should old Labour supporters vote for Lindsey when they can vote for Ken? Not many people will be fooled by the sight of Trotskyists and their friends pretending to be social democrats. Maybe, though, it has come to the point where the SWP is no longer pretending.