The Socialist Unity Network
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Certain realities to face

 


Are you in Respect and therefore an SWP stooge, or are you totally opposed to the whole project and therefore a hopeless sectarian?
 
With much debate on the left not moving much beyond such caricatures it is perhaps time to focus on where the attempt to build a socialist alternative is at, and what lessons can be learnt from the successes and failures of the recent past.
 
A starting point must be recognition that no existing socialist group has a monopoly of the truth or a blueprint for the future. The history of splits and sectarianism in the left in England is not one to be proud of. Far left groups have come and gone, most leaving little more than scores of burnt out activists. The attempt by the Socialist Alliance to unite the disparate factions of the far left with those from the left Labour tradition was unsuccessful. While some SA members have involved themselves in Respect, many who were most active in the SA have been disillusioned and angered by its sudden demise.
 
If we are to go forward to build a broad socialist party, certain realities must be faced:
 
1. Respect is not the only show in town. Despite some very good election results, including the Millwall Council by-election in September 2004, to talk of it becoming the "fourth party" in England is premature to say the least. In much of the country it has no structure, no branches and no system of democratic accountability. Crucially, despite the welcome presence of Mark Serwotka of the PCS on the Respect Executive, there is little organised trade union involvement in the organisation. Respect has the potential to become part of the broad movement we need if its founding conference commits itself to building a party based on democratic socialist principles. It will fail if it becomes simply yet another electoral coalition or "united front", no matter how "special".
 
2. We have to learn from the experiences of the Socialist Alliance. There was nothing inevitable about the failure of the SA to reach its potential. Probably against its own wishes, the SWP was by far the dominant force within the Alliance, and it never moved beyond viewing it as an electoral coalition, rather than the nucleus of a new organisation. The decision of the SA 2003 conference to look outwards, to aim to be part of a wider organisation of the left, that was "open, inclusive, democratic and of course socialist" was one that had the support of the clear majority of SA members. The manner of Respect's launch and subsequent development have convinced many that Respect is far from the fulfilment of that conference decision.
 
Socialist Unity is committed to seeing that conference decision carried out, but recognises that far wider forces that those currently involved in Respect need to be involved. There are layers of activists and socialists in organisations such as the Socialist Party (CWI), Communist party (CPB) and the Alliance for Green Socialism. We also need to win back the many SA activists who have not joined Respect, but perhaps most importantly we need an organisation that can relate to and involve the thousands of socialists and trade union activists who have had enough of this reactionary government.

 

September 2004

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