From time to time the SWP like to go on unity binges. In 2009 when the RMT/Socialist Party/Communist Party electoral vehicle No2EU contested the European elections after the SWP had been specifically excluded from participating, they duly produced an open letter to the left in which they proclaimed "Unity is not a luxury. It is a necessity." The problem for the SWP, of course, is this not long followed their stupid wrecking of Respect and the embarrassing adventurism of the Left List. And their turn to founding Respect came off the back of dumping the Socialist Alliance - a vehicle that, at least for a time, united the principal organisations of Trotskyism for the first time since the 1940s. Far be it for me to suggest that if you're going to do the talk, you should also be doing the walk.
And here we are again. Five years on from the last one the new call for unity is, well, a bit thin. As always, workers are straining at the leash - if only more strikes were called, austerity would be stopped in its tracks. All possible on paper, a little harder to pull off in practice. A concerted effort against racism and scapegoating is needed too. Who can disagree? Then comes the thumping conclusion: the non-Labour left "has to get its act together", it's "too fragmented and inward-looking" when what is needed is "a stronger left" to focus anger and provide political direction. Fair enough.
The problem is, who'd want anything to do with the SWP? Remember, this is an organisation that covered up rape allegations, then performed a ham-fisted and cack-handed investigation-by-committee stuffed full of the accused's mates before letting him off. Meanwhile, the survivors who bravely made the complaints were harassed Scientology-style, and reports of a very unhealthy regime provided the necessary cultish background. Surely any leftist allying themselves with such a disgusting shower would find themselves very quickly sharing the unity of the political graveyard.
But the new unity move fits in with the SWP's record of bandwagon chasing. As reported in the latest Party Notes, their Unite the Resistance front group holds its November conference on the 15th. "The conference could play a serious role in helping to pull together a national network involving some of the best fighters" it concludes. And the interesting but by no means unproblematic politicisation of many hundreds of thousands in Scotland is a movement just begging the benefit of the SWP's leadership. But, as ever, rather than trying to win new people over politically - an especially tough task now everyone can Google the organisation serenading them - the SWP will go for their tried and tested formula: of being the "best builders", the most hyper of active advocates. The naive and the gullible might get swooped up and scooped up by the SWP's unity rhetoric, but it will pass. Sooner or later another bandwagon will roll into town, another opportunity for the remaining members to collectively forget the awful stuff their organisation has done.
Left unity amongst self-described revolutionaries, whether around a political project looking to challenge Labour in elections or knitting together left-dominated campaigns against austerity and closure has proved at times fleeting, at times partial. Partly because the political economy and collective identity formers of the organisations involved necessarily set them at loggerheads. Yet there is already a left unity project that exists. It's called the labour movement. Building that, recruiting to that is the most fruitful thing any of us could be doing.
*Yes, I know about the earth-shattering decision of Socialist Appeal to abandon Scottish Labour for the bright lights and big city of a rejuvenated Scottish Socialist Party - more on that soon, maybe.