The Socialist Unity Network

Washing our dirty linen

Declan O’Neill   SA executive

The good results achieved by Respect in the Leicester and Birmingham

by-elections should mean that the Left will gain more coverage in the mainstream media.  Rather than ignoring socialists, as has been the case in the past, we can expect increasing coverage, though there is little reason to presume any of it will be friendly.

Even before the results the impact of Respect was acknowledged. In the aftermath of the results Respect has been blamed/credited with preventing the Liberal Democrats winning the Birmingham seat as well as the Leicester one. (The BBC political correspondent, Andrew Marr, speculated that Tony Blair would be celebrating George Galloway’s intervention today!)


What we can expect was shown by the debate Newsnight hosted between Lindsay German, representing STWC, and Peter Tatchell from Outrage, earlier this week. The tone was set by the introduction.  The Left, we were told, has always seen “factions rowing amongst themselves.”  The initial justification for the item was the intervention Peter Tatchell led at the recent pro-Palestine demonstration, where the Outrage supporters accused the Palestine authority of persecution of homosexuals.   If the programme producers were expecting a bloodbath they were probably disappointed.  Though Lindsey German and Peter Tatchell disagreed strongly – Lindsay described the Outrage intervention as “not appropriate- there was little or no personal animosity.  The debate took in Palestine, Zimbabwe and the visit of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and clearly demonstrated the differences that do exist on the Left.


The BBC has tried this tactic before, the interview with Martin Thomas of AWL before the anti-war demonstration last year being a case on point.   As we get stronger we can expect more of the same, and if the dangers are obvious, so are the opportunities. Personally I think it can only aid our long term growth and development if we are prepared to openly argue our differences, in public if necessary, provided we do so in a manner that avoids sectarian abuse.   One of the strengths of the Socialist Alliance is that it has brought together socialists and activists from many different backgrounds, and if debate was often heated, it was usually, if not always, devoid of personal attacks.  If Respect is to be a real “unity coalition” it will have to build on that culture, welcome members and supporters from many backgrounds, and include, not exclude, those who may have different views on the way forward.




July 2004


For Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~ For Socialism