Left Luggage

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Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

Electoral project risks repeating past errors

Posted by Left Luggage on July 28, 2009

no2eu 2.0Not much has been heard of the No2EU initiative since its disastrous result in the European elections. But obviously there has been much activity behind the scenes, as blogger A Very Public Sociologist reports. Apparently at a recent national steering committee meeting it was decided to press ahead with the formation of a new platform with the core of the Communist Party, the Socialist Party of England and Wales, the RMT and possibly some other unions:

In the immediate term the steering committee appointed a working group that will report back in September. Its remit is to come up with an alternative name and a basic programmatic document that can be added to later. In addition, another union besides the RMT will be present at the September meeting and committee members will be talking to the leaderships of a further four unions about their participation.

According to the report, there seem to be some good things coming out of this initiative. One of those is the mooted discussions with four more unions about participation in the platform. If that were to occur, it would no doubt mark a significant moment in terms of the historic political/economic division of labour within the labour movement. Also, there seems to be some hints of recognition of making links with localised campaigns and small community-oriented parties:

Dave [Nellist, Socialist Party councillor in Coventry] also said he would like to see the coalition sit down with localised defenders of public services who already have some representation – people like Wigan’s Community Action Party and the Socialist Peoples Party in Barrow. But they’re only going to come on board any sort of left formation if they feel they have a say in its development.

As has been argued on Left Luggage, the number of community action groups has swelled enormously in the last ten years – charting the decline of the Labour Party as an organisation with a grassroots presence – and although many campaigns are formally apolitical, they articulate many of the values and ideas the Left should be championing.
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Posted in Elections, New workers' party, Strategy | 1 Comment »

Leftovers #12 – Left (dis)unity and more on the equality debate

Posted by Left Luggage on June 29, 2009

Can the various Left parties, sects and groupuscules unite around a basic socialist programme in time for the General Election next year? Are they at all likely to attract electoral support if they do?

Judging by the responses to the Socialist Workers’ Party’s open letter to the Left, the first question is unlikely to be answered in the affirmative.

Unlike the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty – who responded immediately by requesting talks with the SWP over the creation of a Left coalition – the Socialist Party probably feels it is in a position of strength vis-a-vis other Left groups at the moment. As one of the players in No2EU, the SP has formed links with the RMT, and hopes to be part of an platform involving Crow’s union at the next General Election. On the industrial front, the SP plays a central role in the National Shops Stewards Network, which held a sucessful conference at the weekend. Leading shop stewards in the high profile union victories at Enfield,  Swansea and Lindsey were all SP members.

Confidence shines through in the SP’s reply, but so does its distaste for the SWP’s previous conduct. The first section of the reply is spent addressing the SWP’s failure to acknowledge the formation of No2EU (mentioned only twice in Socialist Worker). “To try to ignore the existence of an initiative as significant as No2EU undermines your stated aim of opening a discussion on creating an electoral alternative for the general election”, it says, before concluding:

Unfortunately, we believe that your brushing aside of No2EU is an indication that your methods have not changed. You claim that: “Unity is not a luxury. It is a necessity” but as a party you have never been prepared to countenance working together with others in an honest and open fashion unless you hold the reins; hence your wrecking of the Socialist Alliance and your splitting from Respect. Far from playing a positive role, your approach has actually complicated and delayed steps towards a new mass workers’ party in England and Wales.

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Posted in Elections, Ideology, Leftovers, New workers' party, Strategy | 2 Comments »

Lessons from the elections

Posted by Left Luggage on June 9, 2009

As predicted, the British National Party picked up its first seats in the European Parliament yesterday. With 6.2% of the vote, they won more than five times as much support as the best placed Left challenger. No2EU performed disasterously, and suffered the humiliation of getting 20,000 fewer votes than Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party. Bob Crow’s platform barely managed 1% of the vote.

Add to this another strong showing from UKIP and the surprise success of the English Democrats (who won the Doncaster mayoral election and polled at over 2% in the Euros), and this was a very bad election for the British Left. The combined UKIP, BNP and English Democrat vote was 25%, compared to just under 11% for the Greens, No2EU and the SLP.

There are, however, no limits to the capacity of liberals for denial over the failure of the campaign against the BNP. Both Andy Newman and Respect Party Leader Salma Yaqoob in part blame No2EU for taking votes from the Greens in the North West. Others, such as Searchlight’s Sonia Gable, chose to concentrate on the fact that the numerical vote for the BNP fell. Perhaps most ludicrously, blogger Sunny Hundal argues on The Guardian‘s site that the BNP’s success is actually a good thing because it allows us to “expose them in a different way”. He reassures us at the end of his piece:

Most people have enough contact with someone of an ethnic minority to know how stupid racism is. That personal knowledge will always override whatever the BNP says.

All of this is rather like pointing to the fact that 700 people survived the sinking of the Titanic while ignoring the 1,500 that drowned. -Keep reading>

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Leftovers #9

Posted by Left Luggage on June 3, 2009

As we reported previously, the entry of No2EU into the political arena has ignited a lively debate on the Left. One positive result of the establishment of the union-backed electoral platform is the way it has raised the question of what the Left’s approach to the European Union should be. Last week, the debate reached the pages of Red Pepper, where European Union expert Leigh Phillips explained in great detail why “it’s hard to claim the EU is a continental-scale democracy”. On the record low turnout expected for this week’s European elections, she writes:

East and west, this is clearly not the apathy of the contented. Rather, it is the rational decision of those who may have little knowledge of the snakes-and-ladders hierarchy of the European institutions – but sense that however they vote, it will make little difference.

As a Brussels journalist, I can confirm that their hunch is mostly correct. The real power in the EU lies not with elected MEPs, but with a clatch of committeemen, civil servants and diplomats.

Phillips goes on to cite an estimate that the European Parliament has a substantive say in only 15% of EU legislation, with the unelected European Commission accounting for 70%.

Given these claims, it is perhaps surprising that Phillips argues against “the blinkered defence of national sovereignty” she attributes to No2EU, advocating instead “another version of European politics, one that is internationalist and democratic, not intergovernmental and technocratic.” The reader is not enlightened as to what that might mean in concrete terms. -Keep reading>

Posted in Elections, European Union, Leftovers, New workers' party, Workers' struggles | Leave a Comment »

Leftovers #8

Posted by Left Luggage on May 27, 2009

In this week’s Leftovers, we feature the latest developments around the RMT-backed No2EU platform, strategic differences around combatting the BNP, as well as some analysis on trade union militancy, the latest unofficial walkouts, and student occupations.

Plenty has been written about the forthcoming European elections on June 4, though much of it either regarding the failings of No2EU or the possibility of the BNP winning seats.

First, regarding No2EU, an interview with the platform’s Dave Hill (also of Socialist Resistance, which garnered a mention on Left Luggage last week) on Liam MacUaid’s blog has some interesting points and deals with some of the biggest questions that have been raised about No2EU. (It is from the Weekly Worker, however, so does contain some utterly barmy questions.) Regarding the platform’s attitude towards British capitalism and the accusation of Left nationalism, he says:

in my view the enemy is capitalism, based in both the European Union and in Britain. They are the same. What I have been arguing for in the meetings I’ve been involved in is workers’ internationalism with no illusions in the sanctity of British capital. We’re a movement seeking to replace capitalism with socialism – and I’m not just talking about neoliberalism, which is simply the current version of the class war from above.

Regarding immigration and the “no borders” position:

My view is that this is not a time to have completely open borders. On the other hand, I think that the current controls are racist and that people who are in this country should be treated with full human rights and have full workers’ rights. The conditions under which many refugees and asylum-seekers live are horrendous.

He also suggests the platform should become something more permanent rather than disbanding on June 5, as is its stated intention. He also advocated the idea of a “workers’ MP on a workers’ wage”, which is an advance on No2EU’s intention of not taking up seats in the European parliament if elected.
-Keep reading>

Posted in Anti-fascism, Elections, European Union, Leftovers, Unions, Workers' struggles | 1 Comment »

Poll suggests Labour will stagger on

Posted by Left Luggage on May 22, 2009

ICM pollAre these not the epoch-changing times for British politics that some have predicted?

A story on The Guardian website today is headlined “Quarter of voters to reject mainstream parties at EU elecions”, based on an ICM poll that puts the combined total (from those who expressed a preference) for Labour, Tories and Lib Dems at 72%. But reading beyond the headline to the data itself, what seems really extraordinary is that the poll indicates an increase in support for all three main parties compared with the 2004 European elections. The Tories are up +3% to 30%, Lib Dems have increased in support +3% to 18%, and even Labour has gained +1% to take the party to 24%. Given the depth of the public anger over the recent MPs expenses revelations this is most unexpected. While the Guardian report attempts to exaggerate the poll’s findings somewhat, it seems that the predicted meltdown of support for Labour is not quite upon us. This polls seem to indicate the possibility of its staggering on in the same grim fashion, rather than anything more terminal.

It also shows support for the British National Party is lower than many had expected, at only 1% according to the ICM figure, although this is likely to be an underestimate due to the reluctance of those polled to own up to supporting the BNP. At present this is down from the 5% it achieved in 2004. From the (admittedly small sample of) data gathered by ICM in another recent poll (pdf), support for the far right seems to be highest among men, those aged 18 to 24, and voters in social class C2 (skilled manual workers), showing again that the far-right’s support is strongest among working class people. They also seem to be stronger in the Midlands than the North or South. Clearly it is to be welcomed if the BNP do suffer a decline in support, but it should not distract from the Left’s task: building of working class political organisation to fill the vacuum the far-right is attempting to exploit. A poor BNP showing cannot be a charter for the “anyone but the BNP” strategies of mainstream anti-fascism to persist.

Other notable figures from the EU election poll are the increase in support for the Green Party, which is up +3% on its 2004 result at 9%, and the decline in stated support for UKIP, down -6% at 10%.

It’s worth being cautious about all these figures, not only because they produce counterintuitive results. The full data sets are not yet available on ICM’s website, but it seems certain that the sample will have included a large percentage of “don’t knows” that could radically alter this picture, or put a cross by the BNP on polling day.

One thing is certain, however: yet again the Left has let an opportunity slip. In the midst of both the largest economic and political crises in generations, there is no credible challenge from the Left whatsoever. The electoral platform No2EU doesn’t register even 1% in the poll, which should be unsurprising given how late in the day they launched their campaign. In any case, once again the Left is out of contention.

Posted in Anti-fascism, Elections, European Union, Labour Party, News | 2 Comments »