Earlier today members of the SWP, "in solidarity with the BA cabin crew" gatecrashed talks between management and Unite at ACAS in Central London. Here's a BBC interview with one of the SWP'ers protesting outside:
There's more footage here of BA chief executive Willie Walsh surrounded by SWP'ers chanting and selling papers.
But the question has to be asked, what were the SWP trying to achieve? It's one thing to protest against bullying management, but quite another to disrupt talks between them and the trade union. Does this action - which is totally unaccountable to cabin crew - help advance the cause of the workers, or will it be seized upon by a union-bashing media to discredit them as wild-eyed throwbacks to the '70s? True, not living near an airport I haven't been to a cabin crew picket line to gauge the mood. But I doubt many workers have been itching for someone to go down ACAS and force the union to abandon negotiations.
Call me cynical (and one cannot help be after watching the SWP's behaviour for a period of time), but this is about promoting the SWP and has little to do with the demands of the workers themselves. Since its split with Respect and having lost ground on the left to the Socialist Party, the SWP have placed more emphasis on narrow party building than was previously the case. That might be more comforting to the leadership and long term members who had their fingers burnt engaging with "the movements", but if it is to build wider influence it has to make its own opportunities. High profile stunts is one such way it can make itself visible to the public at large.
So leaving aside the wishes and interests of cabin crew and the trade union, AND the effects the stunt will have on popular perceptions of the strike, today's action has been an unalloyed success for the SWP. They were catapulted to the top of the news agenda for the first time since ... well ... when has the SWP ever led a news bulletin? The coverage has also positioned them as a dynamic activist force able to throw convention aside to get its message across - a portrayal that will prove attractive to some. And lastly for the comrades involved, well, a few of them will feel a wee more revolutionary tonight than when they woke up this morning.
I'm sorry though, but this is a pretty poor show. The SWP have let down those they profess to defend, and future such antics will find them further marginalised in the labour movement. I'm reminded of Marx's remarks in the Communist Manifesto where he declares communists have no interests separate to those of the working class. Maybe Marx was being naive. Or maybe the SWP's brand of "Marxist" politics have travelled so far from source that any similarity between them and the founders of scientific socialism are entirely coincidental.