“On June 10th we will
send a massive shock wave through the political system.”
GeorgeGalloway, who predicted his election in London, and the chance of
two other candidates in other regions, winning seats. SWP members were
expecting to win…at least one in London. What happened? They scored
250,000 votes in 10 regions. In none of them were they anywhere near
having anybody elected. Even with Galloway at the top of the London list
they were still 67,000 short of the Greens who got the last seat. In the
West Midlands where Rees was top of the list because they thought they
had a chance of getting him into the European Parliament, they polled
2.4% (34,704), 70,000 short of the BNP and a little matter of 160,000
short of the Liberal Democrats who got the last seat. All this added up
to 1.7% in the 10 areas contested by Respect.
The SWP will
point to London, and the Mayoral race to glorify the performance of
Respect. Certainly the vote for Lyndsey German was pretty good, and
obviously the vote in East London was excellent. But it should be
remembered that the decision was taken to concentrate on the European
elections because it provided, apparently, the chance of a political
“breakthrough”; the equivalent of the election of MSPs to the Scottish
Parliament by the SSP.
It was not only
Galloway who was talking up the chances. On the Respect web site on the
day of the elections a breakthrough was predicted; even “a sea change in
British politics”. Yet the stark fact is that they got nowhere near such
a sea change or electoral breakthrough. Galloway and the SWP surely have
to face up to this reality? After all, not a single candidate of
Respect was elected. Even Forward Wales managed one, and came close
to winning two more. The best results were in Preston where Michael
Lavallette was elected as a Socialist Alliance Councillor and he had a
very high profile. But even here they did not win a seat.
But will the omnipotent Central
Committee and the Red Professors test their theory against reality?
Apparently not. The first internal circular of the SWP was full of
flannel. A sober assessment of the score of 1.7%? No. Reality must be
adapted to “theory”. Onward ever onward. No detours. No reverse gears.
“Together we have achieved
something the left has waited for decades to achieve.”
“The correctness of the decision
to launch Respect is shown by the contrast between our first performance
and the pathetic performance of those who chose to stand aside.”
No hope I
suppose of them checking their facts before writing this? What about the
“pathetic performance” of Respect in the four Regions where it scored
less than 1%, or the four other regions where it scored less than 2%. In
fact, if you examine the results around the country you will find that
there were often similar results whatever the label of those on the
left. What about Democratic Socialist Alliance – People Before Profit
(not a very snappy title I must confess) with 13% in one Sheffield ward
and even the dreaded John Pearson scored 8% in his first outing in
Stockport. In Swindon the Socialist Alliance scored nearly 12% in one
ward (good God didn’t they know they were banned from standing!). The
Socialist Party regained 2 of its three seats in Coventry, though this
reflects the historical base built around Dave Nellist, who used to be a
Labour MP, rather than the strength of the SP.
What did we learn from these
elections? We learned that attempts to cobble together short-cuts do not
get results. In his pre-election contribution on the SUN site John
Nicholson said that it was a good idea to try and build a coalition out
of the ant-war movement. I think this was mistaken. It was never
possible to turn the ant-war movement into a political coalition. It was
a very heterogeneous movement. Of course, there were people who were
radicalised by this experience and could move in a socialist direction.
But an “electoral alternative” to New Labour cannot be built in
isolation from the class struggle and the stage of development of the
workers movement (in its broadest sense).
of Respect, overall, was not qualitatively better than other
results. Given the fact that it was identified with Galloway who played
a leading role in the anti-war movement it was no surprise to anybody
that they scored better in London than elsewhere.
We knew before
last Thursday that there was an electoral constituency of 5% plus for
organisations to the left of New Labour. We also knew that where you do
consistent work you can get 10% plus. And you can even, as the IWCA in
Oxford has proved (what we think of their politics is another matter),
get elected where you build a local base.
The strong side
of the SWP is its campaigning activists. But its sectarian arrogance
will blow up in its face. Respect, nationally, has been a failure.
It was supposedly necessary in order to achieve a “breakthrough”. Well,
it did not achieve a breakthrough. Yet the SWP leaders can blithely
write that “on this showing we can act to Respect’s total of council
seats if we start local campaigning”! Excuse me, but is it not a feature
of the election campaign that Respect failed to win a single seat?
Should this not be taken into account when drawing up a balance sheet?
Unless I am mistaken Respect has two councillors in Preston; one elected
as a Socialist Alliance councillor and the other leaving Labour to join
Like all sects, the SWP can
attempt to inoculate its members against the contradictions between its
‘theory’ and analyses, and the real situation. But the more it does that
in conflict with real life experience, the more sectish it will become,
and the more it will demoralise its members. The more it ignores the
real world the more the real world will club it over the head.