The Socialist Unity Network

Time for a broad socialist party in England

Steve Waliis

I was the only member of the Socialist Party (formerly Militant) from England or Wales who spoke in support of the setting up of the Scottish Socialist Party
(SSP) at the 1998 European School of the CWI (to which the Socialist Party is affiliated). Scottish Militant Labour (SML) had done most of its activities in the
name of the Scottish Socialist Alliance, breaking down years of mistrust between socialist organisations. SML became a ‘platform’ of the SSP, called the International Socialist Movement, when the Alliance was transformed into a party. The SSP has been very successful, winning six seats at the Scottish
parliament last year.

Unfortunately, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has used the Socialist Alliance in England and Wales as a reformist electoral front for its own party. Arguing that the problems in British society can be solved by taxing the rich, rather than overthrowing big business, is not very persuasive to say the least. The SWP has tended to act in a sectarian way towards other organisations (for which I think infiltration by conspiratorial organisations on the side of big
business like MI5, but usually much more secretive, are to blame) and this has provided the excuse for sectarianism against them (such as withdrawing from
the Socialist Alliance as the Socialist Party did).

The latest initiative of the SWP has been setting up “Respect – the Unity Coalition” with some other members of the anti-war movement, including some of those in the Socialist Alliance, George Galloway MP (who I think is a liability) and Muslim leaders (some of whom are undoubtedly Islamic fundamentalist
infiltrators who have played lip service to socialism and equality, two of the things that Respect is supposed to stand for).

The results of the 10th of June elections were fairly disappointing but not disastrous. The SSP got just over 5% across Scotland in the European elections, Respect got just less than 5% in London in the European and Assembly elections and 1.7% overall across England and Wales. Left-wing parties won some council seats – two by the Socialist Party in Coventry
(losing one seat) due to the popularity of former Labour MP Dave Nellist, one by Forward Wales (who got three times as many votes across Wales in the European elections as Respect) and three by the Independent Working Class Association in Oxford (who don’t call themselves ‘socialist’). Respect got votes of over 20% in some areas of London (from a breakdown of the figures) and an average of about 30% across five wards in Preston – but a sign of sectarianism in that town is that Terry Cartwright, who had previously won his
seat as Independent Labour and later joined the Socialist Alliance, got elected again as an independent.

Most SWP members are undoubtedly disappointed by the results, since they had such great hopes (of a few MEPs and a million votes, four times as many as they got). They suffered from very poor election leaflets at the start (just saying they were against war and privatisation; they put forward the same sort of reformist demands that they have on their website: later on after an internet discussion I had with Paul Foot), a shortage of money (they said they wanted £1,000,000, then £400,000 and ended up spending £250,000) and a lack of activists on the ground (largely because they didn’t set up Respect until January this year). However, all is not lost. I have already called for Respect to be turned into a broad socialist party (and handing over most of its resources to the party becoming a platform within it like SML did when the SSP was set up) in a message I’ve sent out on the internet and put on my website (at ), distributed a similar leaflet to this at the Socialist Party’s weekend of discussion and debate, and I will be handing out copies of a leaflet putting forward that demand and participating in debates at the SWP’s week of discussion and debate in July: Marxism 2004.


July 2004


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