Who's sorry now? The 'Left List' and the London Elections

Submitted by AWL on 5 May, 2008 - 3:12 Author: Janine Booth

The Left List's explanation of the results of Thursday's elections strongly suggests that the SWP is stubbornly refusing to learn the lessons or even face reality. We can only hope that some of its more thoughtful members will notice that their emperors have neither clothes nor answers, and will call them to account and/or join with others in renewing and reorienting socialism.

The Left List's claim that "voters punished New Labour for ten years of privatisation and warmongering" is not exactly wrong, but certainly simplistic. Of course war and privatisation are two of the main issues that have pushed voters away from Labour, major symptoms of the New Labour project of pushing the working class out of politics. But voting Tory, BNP or not voting at all is not a show of left-wing rebellion but of reaction and confusion. If this is 'punishing' Labour, then it is like punishing your husband for his excessive drinking by running off with George Best. This needs a response based not on soundbites about 'punishing', but on the need to renew working-class representation in politics.

Some things in the article are plainly true, such as "New Labour's failure to defend its core working class voters" and "Livingstone also brought this defeat on himself". But it goes on to explain that Livingstone did this by associating himself too closely with New Labour, by rejoining the Labour Party and having Blair- and Brownites, and members of other parties, on his team. Valid points, but the SWP's criticism of Livingstone is limited to who he links up with, not his politics. So there is no condemnation of East London Line privatisation, the creation of City Hall fat cats, siding with the police over issues such as the Stockwell shooting, or Ken's advice to bosses to sack sick workers. Sure, the Left List made some of these points during the campaign, but omitting them from its post-election analysis seems more than careless. There are other unsavoury aspects of Livingstone's politics, such as his welcoming of al-Qaradawi, that we could not expect the SWP to criticise because they agree with them.

And the Left List's explanation for its own dismal vote? "It was too recent an invention to make its full mark on the electoral process" and "many people who voted for Respect did so in error, believing that it was the old Respect". Why bother with a political explanation when a couple of technical ones will do, eh? Even if every single person who voted for Respect did so thinking it was voting for an SWP front rather than a Galloway front, they would still have got only 3ish% of the vote! And obviously, not every single person did. The fact that the Left List was a 'recent invention' is not simply an issue of 'brand recognition' but a product of the SWP's political zig-zaggery, dumping the Socialist Alliance, lashing up with Galloway, then rebranding itself following the entirely predictable split.

The Left List says: "What is necessary now is not a left that runs the line 'Labour at any cost' but a left that stands by working class people and struggles alongside them." That's true enough. But over the last few years, the SWP itself has failed to stand by working-class people, and instead moved away from working-class politics in pursuit of mythical shortcuts based on religious and communal loyalties. If it were now turning back again, then good, but I see little evidence of it.

'The Galloway operation' merits a whole paragraph of criticism, something which would have earned anyone else a denunciation for sectarianism until quite recently. But again, it is devoid of political criticism, and just crunches a few numbers. Nor does it acknowledge any role that the SWP have played in creating the Frankenstein's monster that now upsets them so. There is no attempt to distance themselves from Galloway politically - after all, that would inevitably open the questions as to why they were in bed with him previously - but rather, the SWP leadership is just faintly sneering that it has taken Galloway's footsoldiers away.

And what next? There is a hint of backing away from elections - "This will not necessarily be a primarily electoral struggle" - but also an indication that candidacies will continue - "there will still be an electoral dimension", and claims of a few good votes outside London.

The article claims that "The Left List does have serious trade union support". You are having a laugh. The honest version of this statement would be 'Lots of SWP members hold posts in trade unions, and a few of them are quite popular'. Any notion of the Left List having 'serious trade union support' beyond that is delusion.

And finally ... "We must now use this to assist in the rebuilding of an alternative to New Labour that will not be derailed by the surge in Tory and Nazi support at the ballot box." If this meant, 'We will admit our gross mistakes and turn towards unity with other socialists in renewing the cause of working-class political representation', then that would be great. But hands up who thinks that it actually does.


This article first appeared on Stroppyblog.


Submitted by Janine on Wed, 07/05/2008 - 18:22

Arthur, didn't you call on people to vote Labour? Must be your fault that the Labour Party is so crap then!

(Completely illogical, of course, but so are your first two sentences.)

Submitted by Janine on Wed, 07/05/2008 - 18:27

Also, I don't think there is anything in here that constitutes an 'appeal' to the SWP. It may have appeared so because whoever posted the article left out the formatting which indicated quotes lifted verbatim from the Left List article, possibly making it seem that I had written them. I've stuck quote marks in now, so I hope that clears that up.

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