No one could have been surprised at the results of the County Council and Euro elections. New Labour’s vote has been declining since 2003, when the Iraq War was just one catalyst in an increasing recognition that New Labour was all show and no substance, and that the show simply was maintained by a veneer of lies and deception. In 2005, New Labour was saved at the elections by the continued divisions in the Tory Party, and its unelectability arising from a remembrance of what it was when in Government. Blaming Gordon Brown for Labour’s problems on the basis that things would not have been so bad under Blair is then ridiculous, suggesting that it would be any better under any of the other Blairite/Brownite alternatives such as Miliband or Johnson, is equally ridiculous. If anything, given that protracted period of decline, given the fact that Britain along with much of the Capitalist world has experienced the worst financial crisis in history, and a subsequent sharp recession, given the experience of the MP’s expenses scandals, and the antics of Blairite MP’s in the days prior to the election, the surprise should be that Labour won as many seats as they did!!!!
Some have criticised No2EU for the fact that the BNP and UKIP won more seats in Council and EU elections. I have been as critical of No2EU as anyone, but I would not make such a charge. The responsibility for the rise in support for the BNP and UKIP rests solely on the shoulders of New Labour, which has consistently failed to address the concerns of the most oppressed sections of the working class – including those sections in the ethnic communities that have themselves voted for these parties! – and who have pandered to racist and nationalist ideas. No 2EU cannot be blamed for the votes won by the BNP and UKIP, but they can be blamed for feeding into that wave of nationalist ideology rather than combating it.
Having said, all that what are the facts? The fact, is as stated above, that given the size of both polls, and the other circumstances, Labour’s result was disastrous, but not THAT disastrous. For one thing, the reality is that, come the next General Election, the only credible alternative is the Tories, and the Tories STILL failed even under all these favourable conditions to increase their share of the vote!!!! In the Euro elections the Liberals share of the vote actually went down!!! The Liberals also failed to improve their position in the County elections. The conclusion from this seems to be that a) a large number of Labour’s working class support simply stayed at home – this seems particularly to be the case in Wales b) a small section of Labour’s vote, probably from the most backward sections, went to the BNP, and more still to UKIP, c) a further section of Labour’s vote from what might be termed the enlightened middle classes went over to the Greens, d) The Tories failed to make any headway, partly because of the expenses scandal, which showed them to be totally out of touch with ordinary people – the moats etc – and partly because they can be seen as simply a “New Labour Mark 2”, with Cameron in the role of Blair, providing more show and no substance e) the Liberals got squeezed as they usually do under such conditions f) the Greens picked up a substantial protest vote, g) the BNP despite their Euro election results actually failed to make any great headway h) but, their vote and that of UKIP showed the usual retreat into the kind of Nationalist/Protectionist mentality that goes along with such periods of economic turbulence – after all the No2EU, and many of the TU leaders have fallen prey to it also. The latter was also evident in the results for similar parties across Europe.
In the aftermath of the elections, and the attempted Blairite coup, Brown’s position has been stabilised, but at a cost. There is no doubt that what was launched was a Blairite coup. Its failure was down to the fact that some of those Blairites put their own careers above their loyalty to the clan. Central seems to have been the role of Mandelson. According to the media in the week before an e-mail was ready to be sent to MP’s for them to sign to get rid of Brown. Was it a real e-mail, or was it something cooked up by the bourgeois media? I don’t know, but no such e-mail was sent, and at the PLP meeting the opposition to Brown seems to have been negligible.
The pundits say that Mandelson’s role, and the fact that Brown had to keep in place Miliband and Darling, means that Brown is hostage to the Blairites. Does that mean that the Party is set to move back towards that Blairite agenda? That would assume that there is some difference between that agenda, and the agenda that Brown has been following! There isn’t. And, the fact is that Blairites like Mandelson, and Miliband are not stupid. Careerists yes, stupid, no. And if you want to further your career, you first have to get elected. It has to be clear that a continuation of the existing policies could only result in defeat.
Already, its being suggested that the part-privatisation of Royal mail has gone. Its also being suggested that Brown is going to put forward a crash social house building programme. Careerists and bureaucrats know how to tack and adapt their positions when their jobs depend upon it. That together with the expenses scandal, which should open up a massive demand for widespread deselection of corrupt and ineffective MP’s should provide a massive opportunity for the Left in the Part’s grass roots, who are hopping mad at what they have seen.
The problem is that much of that Left in the LP is disorganised. To the extent that it is organised in groups like Compass, it is organised around inadequate politics. The main organising influences that used to exist in the LP – for all their faults and sectarianism – the Militant, and other similar groups – abandoned the political fight inside the LP nearly 20 years ago. They bear a large part of the blame in doing so, for the power that the Blairites have been able to hold since.
The argument used by such groups, today, that they are barred from joining is ridiculous. It’s the same sectarian nonsense that the Communist Party used to come out with after it was rejected in its application for membership having declared its intention to support he Workers Party like a rope supports a hanged man!!!! These groups engage in all kinds of silly games such as members having “secret” ‘Party Names’ in order to maintain the illusion that they are today engaged in some ind of similar activity to that of the Bolsheviks operating under a Tsarist police State. The reality is that socialists have managed to operate under far more restrictive conditions than any they would face in the LP. But, if they insist on being separate parties to the Workers Party, if they insist on denouncing the ordinary workers in the LP as being traitors to their class, if they only want to operate in the LP in order to build their own party and not the Workers’ Party, if they want to renege on all fundamental tenets of workers democracy by standing their own candidates in opposition to those of the Workers Party, whenever they are unable to win a majority to their position, in other words, if they are unwilling to take serious their responsibility to work alongside ordinary workers in those Workers’ Party, then yes, they will find it difficult if not impossible to do, and rightly so.
The reality is that, however badly Labour did, in these elections, the Left outside the LP did infinitely much worse! The idea that there is some class conscious, let alone revolutionary pool of anxious workers out there just waiting for a Left alternative to Labour, has yet again been shown to be a complete fantasy. The only significant pool of workers who have lost faith in Labour, and are attracted to an alternative, are not some group of class warriors, but are those that are heading in the opposite direction, off to the Right, to UKIP and the BNP. The reality is that the class conscious workers such as they are, remain those still in and around the Labour Party. That may be a dismal and depressing reality to face, it does not make it any less a reality all the same. If the Left cannot work with those workers in the LP, then they have absolutely no chance of working with workers outside it. In fact, the Lindsey refinery strike is just an industrial equivalent. Much of the left completely bottled it over the strike, unable to come to terms with the fact that these workers held reactionary ideas. To their credit the SP did not. They had militants in place, and were able to respond accordingly. But, that was one instance. The left simply is not big enough to do that on a wide scale, and it certainly is not able to do it at a polit8ical rather than an industrial level.
The rise of the BNP, and of UKIP should tell us one central thing – unity of the working class, and of the Left in action is vital now. The reality is that the continued calls for an alternative Party to Labour, and the waste of good militants in such ventures are nothing more than Third period Ultra-Leftism. The response of the left has shown its ideological confusion. On the one hand we had one of the largest groups on the left, the SP in the reactionary No2EU adventure. Not only was it based upon reactionary national socialist ideas, but it began by proscribing many Left organisations! On the other we have had the Stalinist AWL swinging violently from one position to another and back even within a matter of days if not hours! Having told us that the LP was a “stinking corpse”, it then apparently decided that well perhaps, they should once again infest this corpse. Even as they were doing so, they were making calls for an alternative to it, and for a new “Socialist Alliance” to stand candidates against it!!!!
The unserioussness of this position was highlighted by one of their former members Tom Rigby in this post to their website An Incoherent Perspective . It is one thing for the Left to build a working class anti-fascist movement to confront the BNP on the streets, rather than to be constrained to what the official Party structures will allow – though, it would be much better to build such a movement by arguing for it and winning support for it WITHIN the LP Branches, as well as the Trade Union Branches and workplaces! – but, it is something else to insult the intelligence of workers and their Party by claiming you want to be honest members of it whilst standing candidates against it!!!
Now, the SWP have apparently put out a call for a unity offensive, for the creation of some kind of unified Left organisation. On the face of it this would seem to be a good thing, but in reality it is a sham. As I wrote in my blog Marxists and the LP , the AWL’s turn has two roots. On the one hand it saw the SP hook up with the CPB, and its exclusion, and saw a pool within which to swim denied it, whilst on the other hand, its loss of faith in the working class leaves it floundering around looking for some tide to catch in the hope of being dragged along in the direction it wants to travel. Having abandoned Marxism in favour of Third Camp subjectivism it has become just political flotsam tossed about by political events, having descended into Stalinism in its organisational methods it is forced to justify its continual zig and zags, by bureaucratism, loyalty pledges, and continual rewriting of history. Its done that continually in its misrepresentation of Trotsky’s writings, now it is forced to do it even in relation to its own positions!
But, the SWP’s unity offensive is no different. The whole history of these organisations is that they are not really interested in unity – the are only interested in building their own organisation! Unity offensives, mergers with other small groups and so on are just tactics by which to achieve it. The reality is that there is only one real basis of unity, and that is unity WITHIN the Workers Party. None of these groups need deny their own political ideas if they advance down that road, but the reality is that they will then find that in practice what workers are interested in is who can provide the answers here and now to their problems, rather than simply telling them that the only solution is Socialism, or that the only solution is more militancy etc.
Having said that if the Left outside the Labour Party were to achieve some kind of real unity that would be good. But, it would, necessarily be short lived if it continued with the fantasy that it then represented some kind of alternative to labour as the Workers Party. There have been much greater forces, united on much solider grounds than any the current extra LP Left is likely to achieve, and in far more propitious conditions than those which exist today, that have come to grief on the rocks of that illusion. Looking at the proposal put forward by the SWP, its clear that such an organisation would then make some kind of bold appeal to the left inside the Labour Party to support it, a unity offensive of its own, along the lines of the United Front. As I said above, on some limited actions that might indeed be possible such as fighting the fascists. But, in reality this again is a fantasy. Even were all of these groups to come together, they would still represent nothing! They would have what, maybe 5,000 members. Even now, that is only around a tenth to a twentieth of the number of workers in the LP. Take into consideration the actual degree of the periphery, the effectiveness of organisation, the implantation in the class, through the Trade Unions, in the community organisations, the direct personal relations etc. it would be in reality even more meaningless. The votes that such organisations have been able to achieve in the past show that to undeniably true.
And, when Trotsky wrote about the United Front, he was speaking quite specifically about a situation where the working class was pretty much equally divided between support for a Social Democratic party and a Communist Party. He even puts a figure on it, at least 40% support! It is ludicrous for such organisations then to talk in terms of proposing a United Front to the Workers Party! As workers and the Left in the Workers Party, we have one simple response to such calls – if you want Unity, then join us here in the Workers Party, join us in the fight. As Trotsky says, if the Communist Party has less than that 40% support ffrom the workers why on Earth would the existing Workers Party, or the workers within it, have the slightest interest in its proposals???? The existing Workers Party, and the workers within it, can and would simply ignore it! Their message would be simple, we represent the workers you represent nothing. If you want to work with us, then come and do so.