Monday, 14 April 2008

Socialist Party on London Elections

Below is an extract from Paula Mitchell's article from the current edition of The Socialist looking at the London mayor and assembly elections. I've omitted the sections on Livingstone, Johnson and the BNP. For what it's worth if I had a vote I would be giving my first preference to Lindsey German and the second to Livingstone, as the article recommends. In the constituency sections I would support the Left List, except for Greenwich and Lewisham, where the SWP's sectarianism won out over serious consideration of how to build a left of Labour alternative. Here the SP's Chris Flood deserves a high vote. And finally in the list section I think Respect Renewal is the best bet. Whatever one thinks of George Galloway he's likely to be very effective in holding the mayor to account.

... workers should have no illusions in Livingstone. The only solution is for trade unionists and campaigners to stand candidates, as a step towards building a new workers' party.

In this election a big opportunity to do this has been lost. Well before the election campaigning began, the two Lewisham Socialist Party councillors, who are helping to build the Campaign for a New Workers' Party, wrote to various campaigning and trade union organisations in London to propose a broad anti-cuts, anti-privatisation list for the GLA, and possibly a mayoral candidate too.

They wrote to the London bodies of trade unions that had come into conflict with the Labour government, or who are outside the Labour Party, and to health campaigns and workers in struggle in different parts of London.

At the 2007 National Shop Stewards Network conference, RMT general secretary Bob Crow declared that the RMT would consider standing candidates in the GLA elections.

This would have been an important step forward.

London Socialist Party members entered into discussions with him, raising the possibility of the RMT taking the lead in pulling together trade unionists and campaigners into one list, which could include Socialist Party councillors, with the RMT at the head. Socialist Party RMT members successfully moved a resolution at the London Underground regional council to this effect.

If such a list had been achieved, the London elections would have been different. A working-class alternative would have been presented which could have articulated the enormous anger at the gap between rich and poor, at the decimation of our services through privatisation and cuts, at the crises in both health and housing.

It could have cut across some of the support for the BNP, by not only being clearly anti-racist, but most importantly, by offering an alternative to the small layer of working-class people who vote for the BNP in desperation over the ruin of their jobs, homes, services and communities. It could have been the starting block for a conference of trade unionists and campaigners to campaign for the formation of a new workers' party.

Unfortunately the RMT stepped back from standing candidates. Without a bold lead from a serious force such as the RMT, the creation of a workers' list that could have a major impact has not been possible.

In the assembly election the Socialist Party is, however, standing one of our Socialist councillors, Chris Flood, in the Greenwich and Lewisham constituency. For the vast majority of Londoners though, the options are severely limited.

The Socialist Party is calling for a vote for anti-cuts, anti-privatisation candidates where that is possible. For the mayor, there is only one such candidate, Lindsey German of the Respect 'Left List'.

Understanding the vicious attacks on workers that Boris Johnson would make and the desire of large numbers of working class Londoners to defeat him, we are calling for 2nd preference votes for Ken Livingstone, while arguing strenuously that the most important thing is to fight for a new workers' party.

In the all-London lists for the assembly, there are three to the left of the main parties: the 'Left List', George Galloway's Respect Renewal, and the Communist Party of Britain's 'Unity for Peace and Socialism'.

A vote for any of these would at least be a protest against the main parties. But unfortunately none of them represent forces that are likely to lead to a new workers' party at this stage.

Galloway's Respect Renewal and the SWP-led Respect 'Left List' are two rival organisations emerging from the split in Respect at the end of last year. The Socialist Party expressed its concerns about Respect from the start. The most important of these was that a new workers' party will not develop simply through a group of people declaring themselves to be the new party, and saying that everyone must join them.

A successful new party will only be formed through the participation of a number of serious forces - a fresh influx of workers and young people, and trade union bodies, community campaigns etc - all of whom need the freedom to argue their own points of view and democratically arrive at a programme and method of work.

Unfortunately though, both sides of the Respect split are now calling themselves the alternative and are calling on everyone else to join them or stand aside.

Scandalously, the Left List is even standing a candidate in the Greenwich and Lewisham constituency against longstanding socialist campaigner and health worker, Socialist Party councillor Chris Flood.

The Socialist Party will continue to campaign for significant steps towards a new mass workers' party, including the presenting of a serious and united challenge to the big business parties in future elections.

But we understand that to succeed, alliances and a new party must be developed on a federal and democratic basis, drawing in a new layer of workers, and rejecting the top-down centralised approach that resulted in failures and splits in the small new formations of recent years.


Jim Jay said...

I like your personal attempts to give a vote to as many different groupings as possible.

Anonymous said...

haha yeh phil is keeping all the left on board :-p

to be honest it doesn't matter who you vote for on the list, any of the three alternatives to the left will do. i don't like any of the groups and none are likely to be constructive in developing a new workers' party or even a wider left alliance.

actually, i might consider voting unity, at least their programme is to the left of the other two! (not that difficult!) i dislike stalinists though for obvious reasons, but they have socialism in their name unlike the 'left list'!

galloway has most chance of winning but i still wouldnt vote for him if you paid me!


Citizen Steve said...

Found this from the latest issue of Socialist Worker :

Jennifer Jones, a student at Goldsmiths College in south east London, is standing for the Left List in the Greenwich & Lewisham London assembly consituency.

Jennifer told Socialist Worker, “I’ve been involved in building the anti-war movement at Goldsmiths and in anti-racism and LGBT campaigns. I was elected as the college’s campaigns and communications officer this year.

“I’m standing for the Left List because it’s giving the working class a voice.

“I’ve got a lot of support from students—there are Left List banners hanging outside windows at the halls of residence and students have been coming along to campaign events. I’m the youngest candidate in south London.

“In my area there are lots of local campaigns. A post office in New Cross is under threat, for example. It’s one of the few that has disabled parking and is used by a lot of older people. The A&E department at Lewisham hospital is threatened with closure and I’ve been part of the campaign to keep it open.

“I visited a bus depot where workers are very angry about Labour. They were interested in the Left List – they hadn’t realised there was a party out there that stood for them.”

I find this astonishing, particularly the last part where it claims that people didn't realise that there was a party that stood for them. Just what do the Left List think the Socialist Party have being doing in Lewisham?

If they're not sure, here's a link!

There can be no political justification for standing against Chris Flood here at all and it is a highly sectarian position. Are they hoping that the students will swing things in their favour to poll a decent result?

I just don't understand this at all. The Left List have no record in the area at all. The SP have 2 elected councillors.

They are also using the same tactic in City and East London, by standing against Respect.

Phil BC said...

Well I wouldn't want to be accused of being a sectarian, re: the "disappointment" displayed by SWP readers in the thread on their organisation, Jim.

Seriously though, I think these are the only options open to socialists repelled by New Labour and not convinced by the Greens.

Jim Jay said...

Personally I'd never vote for Lindsey because I think she'd make a crap mayor - although I like her personally.

Cit Steve I thought those quotes were pretty funny “I’m standing for the Left List because it’s giving the working class a voice. I’ve got a lot of support from students"

I mean it's giving workers a voice because I'm a student and lots of students support me... ummm.... nothing against students but...

bob said...

I think it is disgusting that the SWP put someone up against Chris Flood, and not even someone with any integrity. See my guest post on the odious Jennifer Jones here, and my endorsement (if that's not too grand a word) of Chris Flood here.