Thursday, 16 May 2013

Challenging ingrained sectarianism on the British Left

I’m a member of the socialist party of England Wales myself and up till now I haven’t really experienced too much sectarian behaviour on the left. I joined after the disasters of the Socialist Alliance, respect and now I’m involved with TUSC via the socialist party. With the addition of Left unity now I’m starting to see what all the fuss is about when people told me the left is riddled with sectarian behaviour. I’ve tried to challenge some obit to a extent online the best I can by offering a comradely open approach to both projects of TUSC and Left unity as do believe the only way we can get anywhere in this country on the left is by working together where we can. We are far too small and insignificant on our own to do it all ourselves. The old phrase United we fight divided we fall is quite apt for the present time. I also wasn’t quite a member by the time the anti cuts groups were setting up and today to have about 3 or 4 now is just silly all looking to do more or less the same thing. Of course I think all cuts should be opposed whether they are labour, Tories or lib dem or green that should be our starting point. But in terms of political representation we could either try reclaiming the labour party which I’m sure reads of this blog know of my views on that anyhow it is a dead end strategy at this point. Not to say it always will be but for now it is. So that leaves us with trying to build an alternative to labour and the debate currently going on on the left is how we do that and what sort of party do we want. Clearly, when over 8,000 people sign a petition in favour of a new leftwing initiative, and the most active set up dozens of local groups across the country, this is something that should be welcomed by Marxists. So far my involvement in TUSC has been mainly around election time effectively TUSC shuts down in between elections as far as I can see it. TUSC receives a fair amount of coverage in our paper of course due to the large amount of by elections of late but you wonder if this would be the case if by elections didn’t keep popping up? In the socialist party we organise meetings under our own names the socialist party branch of … and so on. TUSC is mentioned often in meetings don’t get me wrong and this is to be welcomed but going further and involving local c community groups or other outside forces is not elaborated on as far as I’ve seen. I’ve been criticised publicly and in private on social media platforms such as Facebook for daring to question our party’s direction with TUSC. I’m told I must raise these concerns internally or keep quiet. I don’t think that is quite the comradeliest friendly tone I’ve heard. In fact I’ve received some quite sharp rebuffs for voicing my concerns over TUSC and trying to involve the non aligned socialists we have around us. Each time I’m asked well what would you suggest could we do better? Like it’s all down to me to com up with the magic formula or something. I’m simply stating a fact that we are 3 years into a project a electoral front if you like and yet I’m none more clearer where we want TUSC to go is it a party in the making , is it simply a electoral front for our party or will it be part of a bigger project one day ? All questions I’m struggling to find answers to at present. Maybe it’s more of that wait and sees idea we put out a lot. Don’t get me wrong I fully support TUSC and its key principles of standing anti cuts candidates against the pro cuts parties it is important as Marxist we do provide an alternative for workers. It’s just our methods and practices I’m still unconvinced about and have had for some t time but have kept quiet about. What is sad though is the ingrained sectarianism the left neither the Socialist party nor the SWP the two largest trotskyist groups on the left covered what happened at the recent Left Unity national conference last weekend. (Of course, neither ‘reporters’ nor observers were permitted to attend, but you might have thought that both the socialist party and the SWP would have found a way to inform their readers on the proceedings) as there were some of their members there I do believe. The fact that neither the SP nor the SWP do not lead the left unity project at this stage may have something to do with the lack of coverage who knows. But it should have been reported on even if briefly as it could be a major turning point for the left in this country, equally it may not be but to simply ignore it is a big shame in my view. I’ve also been told the left unity project is riddled with reformists and so called middle class intellectuals. Well wasn’t the labour party full of reformists when the Militant now the socialist party was in it yet we still tried to win over the best workers out there to a Marxist point of view. It sometimes feels to me that the organised left today are not interested in joining something they neither lead nor have a bit of influence in. We all have to start somewhere surely hence we’re starting to organise in unions we have little influence in today too. The problem is that formations like LU do not set out to lead comrades “from reformism to revolutionary positions” at all. They appeal to disillusioned old Labour supporters as they are and as a corollary restrict any “radicalising forces” that join to the reformist milieu. They are designed from the beginning as forums that say, “This far and no further”. Clearly we need to go further than our own parties and our own view of the left. We are a party moving through the class trying to find the best militants but as do the other groups out there claim to be doing so. The key with any new party or grouping of the left needs to be rooted in the Marxists ideas that this system can no longer work for the many and that no amount of tinkering and fiddling with capitalism will work for the 99% and that a truly mass Marxist party with the guidance to take society toward a more advanced society based on the common ownership of the means of production is needed in the here and now and in the coming years and battles to come.


  1. I think this is an interesting blog, sorry to reply to it so late at night! I'll try to keep my response as coherent and concise as possible.

    Re sectarianism: I think its a sad fact, but does exist amongst all groups on the left, where all carry baggage of the past which is carried forward. Some of this is the fact that we are different organisations with different tactics, but I also think that despite different traditions/ approaches, greater unity is possible and indeed necessary.

    I regret the fact that neither SP- SWP or others ever tend to credit other organisations. There is a collective silence about other groups, and a collective self aggrandising. In my view, a truly healthy organisation would be prepared to print/publish respectful remarks and positives of other groups successes, and would also publish openly mistakes and weakness and lessons learned, in full view of the class.

    There are no wise sages on the left. No single approach that works for 100% of every struggle we are engaged in or are yet to encounter. The truth is that both the Militant Tendency, SWP, and others have made mistakes, but also had high points of achievement too.

    Any future success of the left would be built upon acknowledging each other's successes, and analysing where we have gone wrong. We shouldn't be afraid to praise one another, even if in different groups or different traditions.

    I think that the best way for the ingrained sectarianism to change is for 1- members to step back and look at how petty it is and 2- for new people involved in struggle to become involved with fresh ideas.

    On this issue, I don't think it can change from the top down [leadership down] it comes from the bottom up realising that we can't go on like this.

    I think the SWP is ultimately doomed in this task, as its ability to recruit young members has been fatally compromised.

    Re TUSC: Its a difficult one as well. What do we want a party to look like. I don't think we've worked this out. TUSC appears as just an election vehicle. Only around for a couple of months a year, divorced from the everyday year long struggles we are engaged in.

    Its the only vehicle at the moment, but I believe we can create a better one.

    We need a synthesis of election work and general activism that feed each other, rather than work exclusively away from each other.

    My main criticism of TUSC is that it prioritises Trade Unionism as key basis of the class struggle, when in my belief the movement lacks confidence and often courage. There are millions of working class people not in trade unions, but who need a working class poll of attraction to work towards. Any socialist party must basically build every type of resistance, be it LGBT people fighting homophobia, un-unionised call centre/service workers fighting for better wages, unemployed & young people fighting workfare. Our organisation should reflect the fact that there are huge layers of people in society fighting against the interests of capitalism who we need to include.

    We can't prioritise any specific campaign, like public sector unions, we need to build anything that fights capitalism, irrespective of its links to established trade unions.

    Hell, we may even in future need to start setting up our own fighting networks and unions to represent workers if the official movement is not prepared to fight...

  2. hi comrade thanks for the comment totally agree with all your points about TUSC too thanks again i think we are too scared to praise others when they get things right etc. and Yes TUSC needs to invilve wider forces to ever become something more than just a electoral front for anti cuts candidates