On 24 May, a crowd of five hundred rioted in Luton city centre, seeking out and terrorising people whom they thought were Muslims and attacking Asian-owned businesses. We carry a report in the centre pages of Solidarity 3/152.
The European Parliament election results will come out after this paper has gone to press. The fascist BNP may win a Euro-MP. If it doesn’t, it may well be only because it been gazumped by the richer UK Independence Party, which has run a high-profile campaign focused heavily on agitation against immigration.
The economic crisis, the failure of the mainstream parties' policies to protect much other than bankers’ bonuses from the crisis, and the scandal about MPs’ expenses, are all creating fertile ground for demagogues with spurious “simple” answers — look after “our own”, blame the immigrants. The Luton riot shows where that leads.
Some postal workers have given a lead in fighting back, by refusing to deliver BNP leaflets. Left-wing activists have been out campaigning against the BNP in the Euro-elections. But, in most areas, there have not been enough of us, and the leaflets have not been ones dealing with the social issues which the BNP and UKIP feed on. They just say “use your vote to stop the BNP”.
The aim is explicitly to mobilise votes for any of the mainstream parties, regardless of politics, in order to reduce the BNP's percentage of the turnout. The leaflets must tend to come across as “stay with the status quo rather than going BNP” — a message which backhandedly strengthens the spurious image that BNP are trying to build for themselves as a radical alternative.
Other left-wingers have been out seeking support for a “No2EU” slate which denounces what it calls “so-called freedom of movement of labour in the EU” — actually, the real, and welcome, freedom of workers to cross borders in the EU — by calling it “social dumping”.
Instead, socialists need to unite our efforts round a positive answer to the social issues which the fascists and the racists feed on.
Instead, we should be looking to rebuild something like the Socialist Alliance — a coalition of all the main activist-left groups, which was able to get across a socialist message in 98 constituencies in the 2001 general election.
That Socialist Alliance was broken up by the Socialist Party seceding on the pretext of disagreements of detail on how the alliance should be organised, and the Socialist Workers' Party seceding to set up “Respect” with the tainted ex-Labour MP George Galloway and start campaigning on communalist lines as the best “fighters for Muslims”.
That was a mistake. We should unite again; and unite not just, or even mainly, for electioneering.
We should unite in day-to-day activity to support actions like the postal workers', and put forward basic working-class answers to the crisis: jobs for all workers; open the books; nationalisation under workers' control of firms cutting jobs; full nationalisation and democratic control of the banks and finance system.
If unity is not possible at national level, we should form local coalitions and unite in local working-class campaigns.
The economic crisis creates tremendous pressures towards protectionism and the raising of economic barriers between countries. The governments want to resist those pressures in the sense that each capitalist government wants every other capitalist government not to raise barriers; but how far they will hold the line remains to be seen.
To deal with this crisis, workers need unity, across borders and across differences of origin. And to promote workers' unity, we need unity of the socialists — a new socialist alliance.
I think Tom raises an interesting question- why did the last one fail and indeed other attempts at left unity?
Part of the problem is the way some left groups have used the Socialist Alliance, Respect and other fomrations as a kind of way to build themselves.
I think the way to pose a new organisation is to:
concentrate on campaigning unity, call a series of meetings in localities on e.g. how to fight the BNP, how to fight privatisation, how to fight Labour's policies of job cuts and recession
this call should be put out to union militants, campiangers in working class estates, antiracists, eco- activists etc., anti-war campaigners etc ie. the movement as well as left goups
socialists should argue for working class methods of struggle- strikes, demos, occupations etc as part of a workers' action programme
part of this might lead to candidates of struggle at the next election- if such candidates came from real campaigns and their policies were decided democratically so that they wer a left challenge representing real forces on the ground I think this would be an advance
I think it would be premature to expect all socialist groups to dissolve themselves but I agree with Tom that a rigid adherence to democratic centralism and towing the party line and en bloc voting can be damaging
Socialist groups should allow their activists to think on their feet, to argue differences from the main group's line and to have debates in public.
I think the AWL agree with some of this.
If they are serious about this call it needs though concrete measures to take it forward, measures I'd welcome and I'm sure other activists would welcome to.
On the AWL I don't know but Tom is absolutely right that socialists whether in the AWL or not should be approaching union militants (and where possible branches), campaigns, groups of workers, as well as other left groups with the call for a new democratic socialist organisation and more than a call take active steps to hold meetings to set up this organisation,
On PR Tom you are mistaken or perhaps behind the times- though may be we need to have a statment more prominently on our wesbite on this I;d agree. We have no restrictions whatsoever on free public discussion. We have the right and duty to take the arguments inside campaigns- minority rights are perfectly respected.
When I get time- probably now tomorrow I'll find the articles where we argue this. But what's more important than articles is the practice I guess.
I think that Tom's point about how groups behave inside a formation like a Socialist Alliance is important. Obviously if members of the different groups making up the SA are so bound by their group's discipline as to prevent them from engaging in debates or action in 'good faith', then the SA will fall apart. The Trotskyist left in the UK (especially the SWP) has a bad track record on intervening 'parasitically' in campaigns - going into them with the perspective of recruiting rather than getting a job done for the working class. The old Socialist Alliance and Respect are two clear examples of this mode of operating. Tom is right to bring up the example of the LCR as something that gives us an idea of an 'antidote' to this culture.
But I think that Tom would be wrong to pose the question in terms of "if a group is serious about the SA then it will dissolve itself". It's not a case of EITHER dissolution of all groups OR an unstable sectarian lash up between rigid parties. The LCR shows us a middle ground. The LCR was, for many years and right up until it dissolved itself, made up of different "platforms". These platforms had a right to argue their differences publicly, produce their own bulletins and statements for consumption inside and outside the LCR, and organise their own educationals and conferences. But at every congress they would dissolve and re-form, and membership would fluctuate. Generally a platform inside the LCR would be constituted on the basis of a big difference from the majority line on one or several questions - and these differences would be thrashed out in pre-conference discussions and correspondence. At the conference they would be officially constituted as "Platform A, B, or C" or "Platform 1, 2, or 3". Of course, membership of these different platforms would often carry over year-on-year, and some more permanent factions existed, like the SWP section SPEB, or Débat Militant, who would join whichever platform most resembled their own ideas... however sometimes the membership of one of these factions would be split across more than one platform... It's perhaps a bit of a confusing picture I'm painting here, but the point is this: these platforms, in conditions of free, open and honest debate within a flourishing, active and democratic League, became fluid expressions of changing ideas within the LCR, rather than sectarian, self-building mini-parties.
Roughly the same arrangement has been carried over into the much more heterogeneous NPA, and some other Trotskyist groups have entered the NPA as factions in their own right (like the CWI section, I believe, and the old LO Fraction, Étincelle). Also, the LCR didn't 'dissolve' itself totally, because you can't just stop a whole body of same-thinking people from agreeing and acting together just by dictat. Instead, the LCR is in the process of constituting one or several currents inside the NPA.
I'm not arguing that this approach is something that can be transplanted straight away into a UK Socialist Alliance tomorrow. You can't just wave a magic wand and make parties whose previous basic mode of functioning was telling disgraceful lies suddenly start being open and honest with each other. In France, it was very difficult as well, and when the Débat Militant group joined the LCR in the early 2000s, they were subject to a lot of suspicion and hostility as perceived "entryists". But what it shows is that if a political formation is dedicated to honesty and democracy, if it allows internal dissenters not only to speak but also to organise, and if all its members can be convinced that it is worthwhile in and of itself and not just as a recruiting tool, then different political factions can co-exist within that organisation - and have their own publications, conferences and internal discipline! - without tearing it apart. It can be done: and the factions don't have to be artificially dissolved - but under these conditions their 'walls' become porous and their membership becomes based on ideological agreement, not sect loyalty.
I think that we would need to go into a Socialist Alliance with the perspective of wanting to create a multi-platform organisation like the LCR. But obviously we should also, as Jason and Tom point out, want this to be much more than a stitching-together of existing Trot organisations: it has to be an activist party that can represent local and national working-class campaigns and industrial struggles.
From our founding statement
"14. Last but not least we re-assert our support for the organisation of our tendency on the principles of democratic centralism. However, we reject the idea that democratic centralism is merely a code word for monolithism. The revolutionary organisation, if it is both healthy and based on the working class, will necessarily reflect differences of emphasis, of tactics and of theory even though it remains united around an agreed revolutionary programme. For us the essence of democratic centralism is as simple as the decision to strike - once agreed all accept the decision, any who don't are scabs. It allows for maximum democracy in advance of a decision and maximum unity in carrying through a decision. But this principle is a far cry from the increasing bureaucratic centralism that evolved in our parent organisation and that has scarred so many groupings within the movement over many years. Unity in action does not mean uniformity of thought. And unity in action does not preclude open debates within the ranks of an organisation prior to action. The only provisos are:
the opening out of discussions to a broader public are the decisions of the organisation itself, not of the individuals or groups involved individual members have the right to explain to people, if they so wish, where and why the disagree with the majority line in circumstances where such public disclosure does not threaten the security of the organisation or any of its members or the effectiveness of a particular action. Individual members, therefore, will only go public once this has been agreed between them and the relevant unit of the organisation (branch, union fraction, caucus, national committee, aggregate etc.) "
and from PR7
"For example, many on the left believe that democratic centralism means the stifling of individual thought and the concealment of dissent. Our own experience in the LFI involved just such pointless self-denial. People who disagreed with a particular line were obliged to pretend they didn’t. Or to put it bluntly, obliged to lie about what they believed.
To give one illustration, if you thought it ridiculous to argue in favour of a united front with the Taliban to secure the defence of Afghanistan from imperialism you were not allowed to say so openly. Why on earth not?
This was not a practical action upon which lives, or at the very least the success of the operation, depended. It was an ideological line. And on such issues there are inevitably different shades of opinion, different emphases. Within the broad framework of agreement (in this case standing firmly for the defence of Afghanistan against imperialism) there should be plenty of scope for public debate over different ways of achieving this. "
Tom - there is a difference between a right to 'free speech' outside the organisation and propagandising for minority views outside the organisation. Our constitution states that "Activists should not pretend to hold beliefs contrary to their real ones" - so, AWL members who hold a minority view are expected to be open about this outside the AWL; and we don't restrict discussing differences to secret pub-chats after meetings with trusted outsiders: we regularly give a lot of space in our public press to dissenting views. AWL members also have a right to form factions and tendencies so long as it is done openly.
But 'making propaganda outside the group' for minority views is different from being open about your differences - it implies building what is in effect a separate organisation, or at the very least, putting a lot of activist time and energy into a political project which is at odds with the group's collective decisions. For organisational reasons, a group can't function properly like that; it will just fall apart.
These "restrictions on free speech" are in fact just the basic minimal requirements for a political propaganda group to hang together and work together as a coherent entity. And all that is different about Trotskyist groups is that these rules are written down, whereas in other activist groups they only exist 'de facto'. De facto, if a member (or several)of an anarchist affinity group goes off leafleting for something that the other members disagree with, then that affinity group becomes unstable and in danger of breaking down.
So, do I think that these basic restrictions should change? No - or at least, not currently. I think that, were several British Trotskyist groups amalgamated into one multi-tendency League or whatever, then the restrictions on inter-tendency intercourse (poor choice of words?) would *have* to soften - although even members of this 'League' would still have to be banned from building separate outside organisations. But don't put the cart before the horse - if the AWL, SP, SWP and whoever all dropped their restrictions on making external propaganda tomorrow, that wouldn't make such a 'League' come about! Rather, what builds unity between organisations is a combination of joint action between activists on the ground and less sectarian policies from party leaderships (and in a democratic organisation, the former should lead to the latter). But I don't want to give the impression that I'm only interested in the relationship between left groups here - this debate needs to be seen as one single issue in the wider project of building a new workers' party - and not even the major issue, either, I don't think.
may be all. It isn't necesarily 'even the major issue, either, I don't think'
but it probably is a fairly important one because many people I think- and with some justification- regard left groups with a little suspicion and this can even spill over into hostility.
So it is really important to show in practice that we are interested in building joint action, interested in fraternal debate amongst not only the left but a section of workers in struggle and that we are not just twoing or parroting a party line.
I'm not sure how much this can be sorted out on a blog but I think it would be good to have some or at least work towards some definite proposals.
"the Bolsheviks fuctioned practically on the basis of frequent public disagreements. During the July Days, while the Central Committee was urging calm, the St Petersbury Military Organisation used its own independent press to call for action."
A good point and of course Lenin argued openly against the majority line.
Anyone should be able to argue whatever they like of course- but there may be times when if it undermines action then it is appropriate under exceptional circumstances to part ways with someone.
An example- if a strike is called and voted for and acted on and takes place then is members of a socialist party or organisation say it was mistake for tactical reasons that may well be fine. If they still undertake the action but argue for a different course- perhaps extending it or waiting for other sections of workers to join in they should have the right to do so within the organisation and publicly. If however they then say we should break the strike they have of course the demoratic right to say that but they should be expelled and indded prevented from crossing the picket line. Or if they take up arms agianst wokrer sin struggle we shoudl fight them. These sort of extrem cases that should lead to expulsion.
1) The Petersburg Military Organisation might well have pressed for an uprising in the July Days, over and against what the CC said. But why act like that split in the Bolsheviks was a good thing? Did it not happen because the Bolshevik Party couldn't communicate effectively; it was operating in fast-moving, confusing conditions; and its ranks were swelling enormously with ill-educated cadre all the time, which, while a good thing in principle, presents major short-term organisational difficulties? Are you not making a virtue of necessity with this example? Might one not argue that the disastrously ill-timed uprising led by Liebknecht in Germany, who acted as a minority in his organisation, was one illustration of where the PMO's rash, ill-disciplined tactics might have led? Either way, this example is hardly a refutation of the idea that co-operation is necessary to success.
I think that the enormous heterogeneity of the Bolsheviks (some describe the party as resembling more of a 'coalition' than a Leninist group) was inevitable given the nature of the revolutionary movement in 1917 and the Bolsheviks' size and hegemony over that movement. The way in which the Bolsheviks were able to withstand that heterogeneity and hold such an organisation together is very impressive, and it contains lessons for how mass parties like the NPA might function in the next period. But you shouldn't make a virtue of necessity! Should the Bolsheviks have *wanted* for an almighty split between the CC and the PMO in July 1917? And by this point, the Bolsheviks were no longer a tight propaganda group, but a mass movement. When they were operating as a small organisation, greater homogoneity was necessary in order for them to make any impact at all. Under current conditions, in small groups like the AWL, people need to pull together more, because a deviation from an agreed course of action on the part of one individual has proportionately much greater impact.
2) Free votes: I agree with you that free votes within a socialist alliance type formation are very important, and I would be the first to argue for us to adopt that approach. To stretch that point a little further, you could point to analogous places like Trade Union left-coalition meetings, where there is also a strong argument for free votes (but again you would need to argue for all participants in a left-coalition to allow their members a free vote... I'm aware that sounds like a cop-out).
But the AWL constitution refers generally to votes in trade unions and elections, which are quite different terrain from Socialist Alliance AGMs! Again, as a small propaganda group operating in a potentially very hostile environment, maximum unity in action is needed in order to make an impact - but even then, not all votes need be tightly whipped by the group. It's a tactical question. I find the idea of being obliged to vote a way that I disagree with problematic and distasteful (and it's not something I've ever actually experienced in my 2 years as a member of the AWL) - but I can imagine a situation where I would just accept that it was a necessary compromise to make.
But then, the difference between the AWL and groups like the SWP shouldn't be blurred - in a more-democratic organisation like the AWL, most of what activists do is determined by agreement and shared understanding; the less transparent and democratic an organisation, the less it bothers to explain itself to its new activists, the more what you say and do is determined by a mixture of knee-jerk sect loyalty and "discipline". So it's a bit tendentious and formalistic to take the existence of a provision for whipping votes as a matter of discipline in our constitution and extrapolate from that, in abstraction from our really-existing democratic culture, that all votes are always a matter of discipline first and foremost, and that all Trot groups are the same. We're not.
3) "You are allowed to state your disagreement briefly, then argue the majority line" - that's a tendentious way of characterising the approach. The constitution says that you should 'state' both the majority line and what you actually think: and in real life, if you're engaged in a political argument with someone, you will argue from your own political perspective, not a majority line you disagree with. The idea is that you shouldn't try to pass off your own minority point of view as the majority line; you should be honest about what you think and what the group thinks. That's not requiring you to gag yourself or act like a drone. And I think this tendentious reading of how we operate (and I think you know you're stretching the truth here) masks our fundamental agreement - socialism should be about telling the truth and speaking your mind, and open-ness of debate should come before "discipline".
4) Yes, the group has a right to know if you're working with other groups, and what on. I've been out canvassing for a left council candidate in my area who was a member of another group, and I gave an NC member a heads-up about it. But that doesn't imply that we're sectarian. We encourage co-operation between groups! We're calling for the formation of Socialist Alliance! "Supervision" doesn't mean that we send Martin Thomas to chaperone you every time you meet a member of another group - it means that, in the interests of accountability, the group's elected committees and organisers should know what the group is getting up to (and vice versa). That isn't patronising, it's just organisational commonsense.
I must admit I missed your post on the provisos (strangley posts don't always appear in order so a reply can be either below or above another post). Actually I agree with you- the PR provisos are potneitally too restrictive and I'd be in favour of getting rid of them or at least having them such that it is only on matters such as breaking a strike.
At the moment though I think there is enough collective trust and goodwill in the group that the more geberous interpretation would prevail- however that is no safeguard against bureaucratic degeneration. Ultimately constituions cannot wholly safeguard that anyway but they can be auseful defence to defend workers' democracy.
More generally I would be interested inc oncrete proposals to take this call forward and make it more than a passive propaganda point. I'll work on that too over the next few weeks.
As far as I know, the AWL is unique on the British left in allowing members with a minority viewpoint pretty much unrestricted access to its press, website etc.
The 'distaste' some people feel at the idea of following an agreed 'line' that you disagree with ignores the possibility that you might be wrong. The advantage of collective debate and decision making as opposed to individual feelings/insights is that people modify their position in response to points raised by others that they had not considered. That is more likely to produce a correct line and even if it does not the process allows for it to be corrected.
"As far as I know, the AWL is unique on the British left in allowing members with a minority viewpoint pretty much unrestricted access to its press, website etc."
It is good to allow different views to be debated out and access to the paper, website and other publications to do so. I think the cpgb may also. PR would but this has not been tested by there being a major disagreement. Debate also needs however to be relatively fraternal- until recently the AWL was or at least many of its memebrs were extremely rude if not vitriolic to those who disagree with it- this does seem to have toned down recently somewhat however and that's as a good thing.
Jason - I think that if AWL members used to be tetchy in response to criticisms of our group, that was because the majority of these criticisms were made on the basis of incredibly shrill, groundless slander, not comradely discussion... and on one occasion took the form of the physical destruction of our banners! I think that debate on the left (and the AWL isn't exempt from this, though it's by far one of the best organisations from this point of view) is often too confrontational - but that culture permeates the whole left and is self-reinforcing.
Tom - I disagree with you twice in one sentence here:
"The point, in any case, is that an organisation can function whilst containing public propaganda on 'definite' actions within it - and their is no particular reason to suppose that the CC is any less fallible than the lowest party organ."
Firstly, I think it makes more sense to point out that the virtue of the Bolsheviks was that they were able to retain their unity *despite* the split between the CC and the PMO, which actually represented a real and massive danger.
Secondly, there is a particular reason to presume that the highest bodies of a revolutionary organisation are more correct than the lowest ones - because they ought to represent a concentration of information and a distillation of the impressions and perceptions of the whole organisation, which should feed into them. For that reason, in a properly-functioning group, where the 'line' represents a distillation of *everybody's* experience, it is better to err on the side of the line.
Obviously, this is a highly formalistic argument, because in real life groups don't transmit information perfectly back to the centre, and the centre can often wind up implementing a line that people on the ground recognise to be disastrous. So, unthinkingly following the 'line' at all times and never contemplating breaking ranks is thick - revolutionaries (and revolutionary groups) should be prepared to expect and accommodate situations where the group is wrong and a given subordinate part of it is right to contradict the line (this includes talking about it afterwards and being prepared to admit that you are wrong: not just refraining from expelling someone for being unruly). I think that in the AWL that kind of flexibility of independent thought on the part of activists is encouraged... but equally, as Matthew point out, by-and-large collective decision making generally is superior to presuming that individual intuition is always better. I don't believe in 'the genius of the individual' - I think that people make better decisions when they make them collectively, just like with any other material endeavour. And if frequently Central Committees and leadership bodies tend to be inflexible, bureaucratic and unresponsive, that doesn't mean that they always have to be, or that we can't change them!
But again, coming back to the question of the Socialist Alliance - I think that there should be a formal position taken in left groups for a free vote within the SA, rather than an informal 'understanding' that could be overridden at any time. I think that that's simply a precondition of an organisation like that functioning correctly. But that doesn't mean repudiating the organisational form of the AWL in general. And, once again, I think that you are basing your argument on the existence of certain formal rules without giving due weight to the culture that they exist within (and to which they are, in my view, subordinate). A very democratic formal constitution is no use against an undemocratic, unthinking culture (as a brief examination of anarchist groups today and through history will show you) - which is why it will be necessary to genuinely convince the entire left of the need for openness within a socialist alliance. And to a large extent I think that depends upon how well it is built and the objective conditions it exists within.
I agree with this: "I think that debate on the left ....is often too confrontational"- the AWL are certainly not alone, nor exempt as you acknowledge.
I think it's premature to expect different left groups to dissolve nor even desirable- but certainly free votes with open debate is desirable.
See here for a statement calling for a new Socialist Alliance. Please sign and circulate as widely as possible!
To the Editor,
Last Sunday saw the election of two fascists to the European Parliament, one from this constituency. This is a very worrying development, but by no means surprising considering the current political climate. When we talk about this election we need to be clear on a few things. These individuals are fascists. They follow a historical tradition of violent oppression of minority groups in society, the destruction of a free and independent trade union movement and the systematic repression of women's rights.
The election of Brons in Yorkshire and the Humber represented a desperate attempt to oppose the main parties lack of any alternative to the quagmire.
In France the New Anticapitalist Party were the benefactors of this radical opposition to the status-quo. In Britian, this is also the solution. Those that offer working-class solutions to the capitlaist proplem are the organisations we should be fighting for and voting for. The BNP do talk about real problems; the chronic lack of jobs and housing, corrupt Labour politicians who take out support for granted while defending anti-worker legislation like the anti-trade union laws, war, charging for education etc etc (the list is endless). It's that their solutions and characterisations are wrong, putrid, disgusting and anti-working class.
We the voters in Hull and the rest of Yorkshire should openly reject the fascist poliics of the BNP and other far-right groups. But in doing so shouldn't accept the drudgery of the status-quo either - neither offer solutions to the problems we face. Our enemies aren't our black or asian neighbours or members of the LGBT community but the bosses and their representatives in Parliament. We should be for internationalism - working class people all over the world are feeling the same pinch as us, have similar scum to us in government and we should fight alongside them.
I urge all those who voted for the BNP at the last election consider this letter and resolve to fight for internationalist socialist politics instead of those promoted by the fascists. We're right to feel pissed-off, but need to fight the real enemy - those who get rich off our work while we get screwed.
Hull University Union Vice President Education elect (personal capacity)
Tom, there were a number of problems with the old SA, for instance the constant pressure from the SWP in particular to minimise ongoing organisation which sought to put down roots in workplaces and communities in favour of occasional election-dashes; and its sectarian attitude towards the struggle in the Labour Party (though this was nowhere near as serious as in the SSP). Not to mention its bad politics on eg imperialism and the Middle East.
But such problems paled in comparison to the fact that, yes, the two largest groups did behave badly.
1. The SP left because the SWP were (at least at that time) bigger than them and they calculated they could do better outside.
2. The SWP deliberately downgraded the Alliance to promote themselves in the Stop the War movement and then destroyed the it in order to pursue the Respect project.
We should not let this history be rewritten! Not by the SP and SWP, and not by 'left-wing' critics who argue the project was doomed from the start either (not saying you necessarily fall into this category).
From Jason Travis, NUT activist and Permanent Revolution member:
I think both the AWL's call and the SWPs are to be welcomed. I wouldn't necessarily look forward to a reply from the SWP but still would press ahead with participating, making sure all votes are democratic, being fraternal in disagreements etc whilst promoting open debate.
Most of all I think we should be for fighting unity to rebuild class struggle- such a fighting unity more than electoral intiaitives can beat back the BNP. However, whilst perhaps more important I don't think electorl intiaitvies are necessarily counterposed to fighting unity on the ground.
I think the most important point is the fighting unity in the class struggle- e.g. support for the Linamar strikes, the Barrow walkouts and Lewisham occupations, the CWU strikes, those at Visteon and future strikes/ occupations/ direct action to save jobs/ fight privatisation.
Of course hese fightbacks are very sporadic and perhaps the exception rather than the rule- we are not on the cups of a revival of industrial strength- but still concentrating practical unity, pooling resources, aiding class struggle where it happens is just as important as political agititaion (and this latter only makes sense if we can show that we put our feet where our mouths are so to speak- deeds to back up the words).
That more than electoral intiatives will help beat back the BNP: we will be able to say to workers rightfully disguisted at New Labour's betrayals and feeling voiceless don't vote for the racists or those trying to cause hatred- voting BNP won't save a single job- organising will. And when migrant workers, Black workers and trade unionsits are at the forefront of such fights that- as well as political arguments- will help break down racism and feelings of enmity towards immigrants and foreign workers. But as I say these two ideas are NOT counterposed and we should do both.
In fact the kind of call from the AWL, the SWP and Bob Crow probably also has a chance to increase th epossibility of fighting unity in the class struggle