Is Socialist Unity an Oxymoron?
It has often seemed as though 'Socialist Unity' is as much of an
as 'Military Intelligence'. Does Respect offer us a way to overcome
There are clearly some encouraging signs in the Euro and London Assembly
elections. However, to move forward from here requires audacity and a
clear plan for the coming months.
I fear that this is highly unlikely to occur. The size and influence of
the SWP is both a strength and a weakness for Respect. We must be clear
that without the efforts of the SWP the Stop the War Coalition would
been far smaller and less significant and Respect would not have existed
at all. However in my opinion that very size of the SWP acted as a block
on the growth of the Socialist Alliance and will act in the same way in
Respect. Also by dividing its activists efforts between maintaining the
SWP in its current form and Respect it weakens Respect. A good example
this is that the SWP has rushed out a post-election leaflet - surely
would have been more appropriate from Respect? The SWP's "teacher
best" attitude to strategy and tactics alienates potentially good
activists and does not allow Respect to grow politically. As a new force
on the left, involving many new to politics, if Respect has to learn by
making mistakes so be it. Encouraging debate and democracy is far
I would like to think that Respect will become a serious force but the
experience of the SA leads me to believe otherwise. Only if SWP were to
follow the example of Militant in Scotland in creating the SSP as a new
party by becoming a platform in a new organisation would Respect be more
than a flash in the pan - this is very unlikely.
I also fear that in terms of electoral politics in the UK a window of
opportunity is closing. Part of what made the Socialist Alliance and
Respect conceivable was the total disarray of the Conservative Party. In
those circumstances the phrase 'oh but you'll just let the Tories in'
hollow. However while they look unlikely to win the next General
the Tories are no longer a joke. Michael Howard is a very nasty piece of
work but he is not a figure of fun.
So is all lost for socialist unity? Well no I don't believe so. Let's go
back to the reasons for forming Respect in the first place - the anti
movement. That showed the potential success when a campaign unites the
left. It pulled in massive numbers of non socialists and seriously
affected the political agenda. We should do what we are best at and
concentrate on campaigning. Let's unite and fight to put the unions back
on their feet, concentrate on avoiding stupid duplication of campaigns
like the idiocy of having the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the
Campaign for Palestinian Rights. If we can't unite on single issue
how can we ever build a united socialist party?