Ken Loach’s appeal for a new party of the left has found an echo, with thousands of signatures to an on-line petition already. Signing a petition is not a massive commitment. If the party can not encourage these thousands to actually finance the new party, and to canvass for its candidates, to defend its policies, to participate in its democratic structures to help determine its strategy and tactics, then it could descend into just another failed experiment. However, a lot of people don’t like to sign petitions. And some are very wary of sharing any personal information in cyberspace. The thousands who have signed could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Those thousands probably include activists and potential voters alike. When it comes to the latter, we know the vote is out there. The vote captured by many of the left of Labour parties has fluctuated wildly, and the new party’s would probably do that as well. Why does this vote decline so catastrophically at times, with one potentially inspirational alternative to Labour ending up as yet another shipwreck, bouncing along in a stormy ocean, sending out few ripples other than those that threaten to sink a new attempt at left unity: SLP, SA, SSP, RESPECT? Is it simply down to subjective factors? I don’t believe that to be the case.
I think the poor votes for TUSC are to a significant extent self-inflicted. However, I do not think all TUSC’s critics are necessarily advancing any improvement on TUSC’s dilemma. And whereas the problems with TUSC can be fixed (although it may already be too late to fix them without incorporating its cadres into a broader party, one that brings to the table the new forces galvanized by Ken Loach), many of the critics of TUSC want an alternative that is rotten to the core.
The Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party have to discuss this. They have to seriously assess the strengths and weaknesses of TUSC. They have to then move forward with greater forces. They cannot afford to adopt a sectarian attitude to others. They need, as part of a realignment of the left that wins the positive affiliation of millions of trade unionists, to tackle the witch hunting against all supporters of democratic centralism. They need to patiently explain the positive role it can play in a broad workers’ party. It is, in essence, the only way our class can further our interests: unity is strength, just like in the industrial arena. Here is John Molyneux’s defense of democratic centralism that exposes the anti-democratic alternative of Richard Seymour and his group of destructive factionalists: In defence of democratic centralism/.
Centrists and anarchists are crawling out of the woodwork to try to split the electoral alternative to Ed Miliband’s party along the lines of democratic centralism. Their arguments are indistinguishable from those deployed by Neil Kinnock of a ‘party within a party’. They are incapable of appreciating that democratic centralism is not less democratic than that of an atomized membership of a workers’ party, but infinitely more democratic.
Those like Manzil and Richard Seymour who attempt to smear the SWP and SP for singing from the same hymn-sheet, caucusing etc, are doing the work of the capitalist state. The latter needs to atomize the resistance to capitalist exploitation. Their love for socialist parties is so great that they want two, three, fifty seven varieties of socialist parties. If they could get it, they would prefer every socialist liquidating their respective organisations into an infinite number of ‘pure’ socialist parties, each comprised on a single ‘principled’ individual, every one of them fighting like ferrets in the proverbial sack.
Leninists want to unite the fragments of the non-sectarian left. We know we need a united socialist party that furthers the interests of our class. We know that the electoral system forces compromises on all of us. We have to maximise the numbers of socialists who can break through the first-past-the-post hurdle. We need ad hoc electoral pacts when that is the best we can do. But we prefer to create a stable electoral formation where candidates are chosen democratically and everyone unites over whoever secures the mandate to represent the party. That is no longer possible inside Ed Miliband’s party and has not been for a very long time. That is why the likes of John McDonnell and Owen Jones are wasting their time, millions of trade unionists doing little more than subsidizing their own political hit-man.
Within a broad socialist party there will be factions; what Neil Kinnock refered to as a party within a party. Comrades will disagree on policies, strategy and tactics and will, secretly or otherwise, group together to try to convince the unconvinced, those who invite others to try to persuade them because they simply do not know what to think and have no problem listening to the advice of others who believe they have made themselves better informed or who simply have a knack for strategic and tactical thinking. Since many workers spend so much time making money for the parasitic capitalists, then have family commitments, they accept they might have had less time than some others to solve complex political problems. Does that make their votes any less important than that of the leadership of the party? Absolutely not. The leadership has to convince. Different factions within a broad workers party have to have the right to make their case and to leave it to the members to decide. Such factions can exist within a democratic centralist party existing on its own, or a democratic centralist tendency can act as a faction within a broad workers party: both options can work as happened inside the RSDLP and (I would argue) worked well inside the SSP while Tommy Sheridan was the national convenor.
No Marxist Party can make any headway so long as it does not take elections seriously: by-elections, proportional representation elections, elections where the class composition of the electorate gives Marxists an edge (trade unions for example), low turnout elections such as local elections, and also important general elections, even when conducted on the formidable terrain of first-past-the-post. When it comes to the latter, Marxists need to unite. No egotist can be allowed to get in the way of class unity. Arthur Scargill and George Galloway had, and still have, formidable talents. They could and can be positive assets of the movement, even today. Left Unity has to ask them both and their loyal supporters to participate as equal partners along with every other member, and not to continue to divide the vote under first-past-the-post when this simply damages all the left. Who would dare to oppose such unity? MI5 oppose it. British Intelligence don’t want to see the left getting its act together. They want decades more infighting and sectarianism, because so long as we turn against each other, the rule of their class continues indefinitely, even as their special bodies of armed men and women are taking bribes from Rupert Murdoch and killing or beating up innocent people, then colluding with the IPCC to cover it up, provoking riots, then covering up their own role in these riots.
Capitalism can no longer afford a humanity that lives decent lives. It has once more entered a prolonged period of savaging all our economic and political rights. These are the circumstances where the ideas of Marxism can get a hearing, and not simply amongst academic ‘Marxists’ like Richard Seymour. Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action. And this is the time to unite our class around the ideas of genuine Marxism.
We need genuine left unity. Isn’t that obvious?