Overcoming passivity

Bob Davies faced apathy, indifference, and hostility to politics while canvassing

With just a week to go until election day, Tusc’s campaign for local Unite convenor and Socialist Party in England and Wales member Rob Williams as candidate for Swansea West has been upped a gear.

For the past few weeks, as well as militantly arguing for the defence of working class rights and standards against the raft of cuts guaranteed to be imposed by all the mainstream parties, comrades from Tusc have doggedly fought to raise comrade Williams’ profile. The CPGB has continued to play a prominent role in that campaign, involving itself in most of the stall work, leafleting and canvassing.

But important questions now need to be considered. Firstly, what of the future of Tusc? Pushing a set of politics to counter the anti-working class agenda of Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives is commendable as far as it goes, but how does Tusc hope to advance such politics in the period subsequent to May 6? Indeed, if it has aspirations to become a significant force in leftwing politics, what measures will it take to strengthen the coalition after this date?

This is not an unimportant issue. However, SPEW openly states that the question of left unity is secondary: what matters is organising jointly with trade union left bureaucrats like Bob Crow to encourage a union break from Labour in order to set up a Labour Party mark two. As this possibility is remote, to put it mildly, it is difficult to see how the limited cooperation we have seen in Tusc can be taken forward.

For its part, the Socialist Workers Party, although formally part of Tusc, has not played any significant role in comrade Williams’ campaign in Swansea, preferring instead to prioritise its work within Unite Against Fascism and, as a result, Tusc’s name recognition has not been what it might have.

Secondly, there is the question of politics. Canvassing throughout the past couple of weeks has been characterised by a general apathy, indifference and, at times, hostility to politics from people at the door: ‘It’s not going to make a difference who gets in’ and the belief that immigrants are to blame for job losses (particularly high in Wales) were sentiments we have often encountered. Admittedly, there have been positive responses and, speaking from personal experience, the odd one or two inspiring moments when individuals questioned the nature of the political system per se. But many people continue to see their relationship to politics and political participation as, at best, a passive one. Which begs the question, how can socialists overcome this?