building from below: left unity and the case of northampton sos

by Dave Spencer

See here and here for leaflets from the campaign

The SWP’s call for Left Unity for the 2010 General Election should come with a “serious health warning” attached to it.  On February 5th 2005 the SWP used its majority to close down the Socialist Alliance, which involved a number of different Left groups and individuals.  They closed it down to establish their own, more loyal front organisation, Respect.  And we all know what happened to Respect!

At the same time the SWP helped to organise the demoralising split in the SSP (Scottish Socialist Party).  They had “a platform” inside the SSP and encouraged Tommy Sheridan to break the broad and brave alliance of the SSP.  Why? Because the SWP cannot stand rival organisations.

In the 2001 General Election the Socialist Alliance fielded 98 candidates in England and Wales and gained 1,69% of the total vote.  In Scotland the SSP fielded 72 candidates and gained 3.36% of the total vote.  Both sets of candidates beat the SLP.  These are better results than No2EU in the recent Euro-Elections and remember we are now in an economic recession.

Imagine building on that 2001 result.  Well one former Socialist Alliance branch did precisely that.  Northampton comrades have been campaigning consistently to defend the public services in their area.  In this year’s County Council elections they stood three candidates on a Save Our Services platform.  Dave Green in New Duston ward gained 950 votes, 39.6% of the total votes and came second by 60 votes to the sitting Tory councillor. Harry Tuttle in Lumbertubs ward got 16.5% of the total vote and Norman Adams in Delapre ward got 10.3% of the vote. We reproduce one of their leaflets to show that you do not have to soften your message to get a vote.

Of course we should not believe that votes are everything and that we can change the world by winning Council or parliamentary seats.  But it gives us an opportunity  to get a hearing from the working class provided that we have done the consistent campaigning along the way.  The calls for unity at the last minute before an election are rather like the method of Joshua before the Battle of Jericho.  March round and round working class communities without getting involved and then throw in a leaflet at the last minute and expect the walls to come tumbling down.  Joshua’s victory depended on a miracle – the SWP will need one too.

The SWP has form.  They sabotage broad organisations they cannot control and they are renowned for undemocratic practices.  It is not sectarian to say this; it is they who are the sectarians.  Any contact with them should demand building from below in working class communities and transparent democratic organisation; not waiting for orders from above.  This is the only way to build Left Unity and incidentally the only way to defeat the BNP.

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