No victory for workers
LABOUR held onto their council seat comfortably in Newham South and the fascist BNP came third, disappointing for them in an area which they had specifically targeted and hoped to do well in, but a warning for the left all the same.
Jubilant ANL members chanted hysterically about how they had won and that the composition of Newham council - ie, 100% Labour - remained unchanged. But hold on a minute: weren’t these ANLers the same people who appeared just weeks before as members of the SWP, lobbying the council against a vicious £6 million cut in services?
What had changed? Had the Labour group apologised for betraying the working class and promised to shelve the cuts? The answer of course is no. On the contrary, the ensuing decimation of jobs and services would continue as planned.
The SWP’s support for Labour sends a clear message to Tony Blair and his loyal councillors: ‘Don’t worry about abusing the working class because we will still campaign for you.'
The local anti-racist organisation, the Newham Monitoring Project, ran a campaign with the simple message - ‘Don’t vote BNP’. The 18% turnout on polling day probably indicates that this negative campaign was effective.
The left is now faced with a real dilemma. Does it give unconditional support to Labour because a fascist is standing or does it take a giant leap forward and stand its own candidates? Perhaps it should look to the Bolsheviks, upon whom it claims to base itself, for an answer. In the elections to the second Duma in 1912 the Bolsheviks decided against an electoral pact with the Cadets (Liberals) to prevent the Black Hundreds gaining seats, but instead stood independently. Conversely the Mensheviks made a pact with the devil, which eventually led to their oblivion.
Standing alternative candidates to Labour is the first step in breaking workers from a disastrous Labourite path. Surely it is not too utopian an idea that the left could come together to stand candidates on a minimum workers’ platform. This would achieve two things. One, it would give workers, who have lost faith in the mainstream parties, a real alternative rather than leaving the way open to the fascist BNP. Two, it would send a message to Blair and his cronies that we are no longer prepared to surrender our vote to the bosses’ second eleven, but are going to build an independent working class organisation.
Eighty two per cent of people in Newham South ward did not bother voting. Many of them are clearly looking for an alternative; we must provide it. In doing this we must oppose Labour at the ballot box and the fascists both in the ballot box and on the streets.