How should socialist activists, trade unionists and anti-war activists vote in the 2005 election? The immediate choices of government are miserable.
The main thing socialist activists can do in this election is to convince more people to become socialists, and to make efforts to organise workers more broadly towards socialist ideas.
That is why it is right for us to stand under our own colours and offer our own ideas to the electorate in as many areas as we have the resources for. But this can only be part of a longer-term campaign to win support for socialist ideas.
The Socialist Green Unity Coalition is standing in 27 constituencies in England, and the Scottish Socialist Party is standing all over Scotland. AWL member Pete Radcliff is standing for the Socialist Green Unity Coalition in Nottingham East. Serious activists should vote for these candidates.
What do we do elsewhere in England and Wales?
Before and after the election we need to build up campaigns for better wages and conditions; for publicly-owned and democratically-controlled public services (against privatisation); for trade-union rights and civil liberties; for peace and international solidarity; for open borders and against racism.
It is in those struggles that the organisation, the confidence will be built which can create a better world - and give us better options in future elections.
That said, we still have to make our choices about which way to vote in this election.
Some left activists have been tempted to back the Liberal-Democrat or the Greens. Brian Sedgemore, a long-time left, "Bennite" MP has even joined the Liberal Democrats! As we explain elsewhere in this paper that is wrong.
And what of Labour? Why would we want to vote for a party that is so wedded to capitalism and screwing the workers? Because the Labour Party still organises the forces that can advance working class struggles - the trade unions. We can vote Labour, but on the basis of being involved in those struggles.
We say vote Labour not because we support the New Labour manifesto, or endorse Blair's leadership of the Party. We completely oppose what the war-mongering, privatising New Labour clique has done in government.
We say vote Labour only because of the potential strength the trade unions - the bedrock organisations of the working class - still have in the Labour structures. If we can organise in the unions sufficiently to get them to use their weight in society, to campaign for the policies their members have voted for - against cuts, privatisation, the anti-union laws - that will also have a huge knock-on effect inside the Labour Party.
A concerted fight from the unions will not happen in this election, or next month or maybe not even in next year. But it will happen. And there is the beginning of a fight going on now. Many unions and individuals are sponsoring the Labour Representation Committee, a body campaigning to restore working-class politics inside the Labour Party. We should be involved in any and every fight in the labour movement and that is why we say: where we haven't got the resources and forces to propose a socialist candidate, vote Labour.
Don't vote Respect
Some activists have been tempted to vote Respect, seeing it as a left-wing alternative. As we explain elsewhere in this paper, it is not. It has leftish policies - against privatisation and so on - but all are encased in a framework of promoting personalities like George Galloway, who as an MP was never more than a "soft left" rebel, distinguished from the rest of Labour's MPs only by such things as his links with Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. In the main areas where it is standing Respect is also appealing for Muslim votes on a communalist basis. Respect does not offer class answers to the poverty and unemployment of the working class in those Muslim communities.
Electing Galloway to Parliament, the best chance for Respect, would be a shame, not a victory, for the left.