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From The Socialist newspaper, 28 June 2002

An Appeal For Socialist Unity

IN THE light of the success of a range of Left candidates in the last local elections, the Socialist Party wrote the following letter to the Socialist Alliance

We are writing to the Socialist Alliance (SA) to propose that our two organisations begin talks on the possibility of re-establishing a broad, inclusive alliance of the Left.

The recent local elections once again showed the vacuum of working class political representation that exists in Britain today.

While, ominously, the neo-Nazi BNP made an electoral breakthrough for the first time since 1993, still the overwhelming feature was the widescale disenchantment the local elections revealed with all the establishment parties and therefore the possibilities that exist for building an alternative to New Labour from the Left.

These elections were important in that respect for the socialist Left. We believe they vindicated the Socialist Party's perspective that, in absence of an authoritative alternative to New Labour - a new mass workers' party - or a resurgent mass socialist consciousness, opposition on the electoral plane would develop in many variegated forms.

Thus we saw the Greens winning their best ever result since the European elections of 1989; the victory of the Kidderminster Health Concern group in Wyre Forest; and the respectable scores recorded by other independent tenants and community campaigners - from the WATT anti-housing transfer campaign in Southwark, the Community Action Party in Wigan, the Save Our Services trades council-backed candidate in Wandsworth, to the Local Education Action by Parents (LEAP) group which won a seat in Lewisham (campaigning alongside the Socialist Party there).

Although we would argue that such organisations cannot offer a clear way forward, in ensuring the political representation of the working class or promoting the necessary socialist programme to achieve the transformation of society, the vote they recorded is symptomatic of a broader search for an alternative which the socialist Left must relate to.

Many of these groups and campaigns could and should be involved in a democratic socialist alliance if the right approach is adopted to them.

We would also in this context point to the re-election of the independent socialist councillors in Preston's Deepdale ward - former members of the Socialist Alliance - and the votes achieved by the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA), which won a seat in Oxford and polled well in the five other wards where they stood, in Hackney, Islington and Havering.

While we disagree with the approach of the IWCA, which deliberately restricts its campaigning to local community issues, we should acknowledge that the main initiators of this group are also former members of the Socialist Alliance.

It was, as you will recall, precisely this issue - how to relate to the disparate forces which will emerge in the absence of an authoritative mass alternative to New Labour - that lay behind our decision to leave the Socialist Alliance in December last year, despite being a founding organisation of the Alliance.

At the SA conference then, the Socialist Party argued for a 'federal' Alliance that could bring together different socialist organisations, individuals, community campaigners and trade unionists - without them having to give up their own independent organisations, activities and views - as a step towards a new workers' party.

Unfortunately, however, the conference rejected this approach and voted for a structure that gave control over any groups that join the Socialist Alliance to the numerically dominant group in it, namely, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

So how then does the SA assess the local election results, the first electoral test since the December conference? It is a fact that the Socialist Party remains as the only socialist organisation in England and Wales with elected councillors, polling 10,078 votes with 34 candidates, an average vote of 296 (11.48%) per candidate.

In comparison the Socialist Alliance's 204 candidates polled an average of 138 (5.8%) per candidate, 28,071 votes in total, with unfortunately not a single councillor elected.

In the 'top twenty' socialist results, not only do Socialist Party candidates dominate the top of the list but there also feature candidates from the Leeds Left Alliance and the Socialist Labour Party, also not currently participants in the Socialist Alliance. And even in areas where you polled respectably or claim your greatest numerical strength, such as Hackney or Southwark, your candidates were consistently outpolled by the Greens or community campaigners.

Surely now you would no longer defend the conception that the SA will be the only vehicle for building working class political representation, to which all other groups and organisations should defer?

Of course, we would not expect to reach full agreement on the issues raised by the local election results or on all the broader questions posed on how the struggle for socialism can be advanced. But we would hope at the very least that the comrades are now prepared to re-visit with us the question of how an inclusive socialist alliance that can unite the Left could be built.

Yours comradely,
Clive Heemskerk, on behalf of the Socialist Party executive committee

Liz Davies and Rob Hoveman have responded for the Socialist Alliance, saying their next executive meeting is 14 July, when they will discuss the letter. "In the meantime, as you know, we continue to be committed to avoiding electoral conflicts with other socialists wherever possible"

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 28 June 2002:

Who Can Live On Poverty Pay?

Hands Off Comprehensive Education

Israel's Re-Occupation Doomed To Failure

Trotsky's Transitional Programme: Winning Support For Socialism

Spain - 10 Million Strike For Workers' Rights

An Appeal For Socialist Unity


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