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Saturday, 31 May 2014

The lefts over optimism

Now I was a member of a left wing party the socialist party of England and Wales the CWI and I am now in no party at present. I left for many reasons too many for one blog post but I did feel one of the most frustrating parts of the left and the far left in particular is to over egg a situation and to talk up a strike or an election like it is the most important thing in the world for some time. Recent reality would suggest otherwise. Take the 2 million people out on strike in the public sector in late 2011 where did it get to? Completely smashed and an opportunity missed by all the trade unions including those who claim to be on the left. As for elections don’t get me started. This year TUSC, The Trades Union and Socialist Coalition which is mainly run and backed by the Socialist party of which I was once a proud member before I was somewhat drummed out of it sadly. TUSC was hoping for a breakthrough as it always does in elections this time it had fielded an impressive 560 candidates in local elections including a few mayoral elections oddly too. SO yes all well and good I can’t fault this at all even if most were paper candidates like me not so long ago. But the election results were poor we have to say; again the level of rhetoric did not match the results for the SP who did not manage to gain any councillors. The one bit of light was Keith Morral who retained his seat in Southampton despite being expelled from the labour party for fighting and voting against the cuts down there so fair play. Even if Keith did not stand on a TUSC label on the ballot paper which can’t be seen as a win for TUSC as a result it is welcome an anti cuts councillor is back in the council chamber all the same. The attempt by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to make a breakthrough in the May 22 local elections in England and Wales - in terms of both achieving a large vote and gaining wide publicity - was unfortunately unsuccessful. Tusc’s 560 candidates polled 68,031 votes - an average of 121 per candidate. But this average is rather skewed by, in particular, the victory of Keith Morrell in Southampton Coxford. Comrade Morrell was one of two Labour councillors suspended for their opposition to cuts who formed the Councillors against Cuts group. This time standing for Tusc, all be it as an independent the reason for which is still unclear to myself he picked up 1,633 votes. Another score that was well above the average was Dave Nellist’s 974 votes (29.7% for second place) in Coventry St Michael’s, where he had been a Socialist Party/Socialist Alternative councillor for 14 years from 1998 to 2012. A second former councillor, Chris Flood, also fell well short of winning back his seat, gaining 659 votes (16.18%) in Lewisham Telegraph Hill. He also stood as Tusc’s mayoral candidate in Lewisham, where he won 1,354 votes (1.88%). In both contests he was a fair way behind John Hamilton of Lewisham People before Profit, who won 6,014 votes (8.33%) for mayor and 1,258 votes in Telegraph Hill (second place). People before Profit stood in all 18 Lewisham wards, by the way, winning an average of 14%. The driving force behind Tusc is, of course, the Socialist Party in England and Wales. In fact SPEW comrades were so busy campaigning for Tusc that they decided they would not be able to publish The Socialist on Wednesday May 21 - the pre-election issue was printed on Wednesday May 14 and was dated May 15-28. So, after this all-out effort, SPEW must be very disappointed in the election results. However, its public reaction is mixed. On the one hand, it wants to play up Tusc’s impact: “In 21 councils Tusc has polled over 1,000 votes. In 10 of these, it has been over 2,000. A powerful anti-austerity message has been sent in all these areas.” The Tusc statement continues: “In 31 councils Tusc stood in over 30% of wards and in five of them (including Southampton) it averaged more than 5% where it stood.” On the other hand, it wants to blame the media for failing to give it the necessary publicity. Tusc’s total of 560 candidates was the fifth highest after the big four (including Ukip, obviously) and it contested 13% of all seats. It was “indisputably ahead of the rest of the pack” - the party with the sixth largest number of candidates being the British National Party, with 106 candidates. “Yet Tusc’s share of media coverage is no way commensurate with the number of candidates we are standing” and in fact the BBC website’s “guide to the English council results doesn’t even include Tusc in its handy list of abbreviations”.2 While the complaint against the media is reasonable on one level, both these arguments are incorrectly based. Tusc’s “powerful anti-austerity message” did not make any real impact. A couple of thousand votes across a whole town or borough represents a very small proportion and even in those areas most workers will still not have heard of Tusc, let alone take on board its political message. But why blame the media for this lack of impact? After all, a common complaint against politicians in general is that ‘You don’t see them between elections’ - and that applies to Tusc even more. For it does not actually function in any real sense at other times. SPEW is campaigning under its own name, while Tusc is hidden away out of sight. And what can be said about SPEW applies many times over to the Socialist Workers Party, which takes no part in Tusc other than nominating a handful of SWP candidates for each election. It will be most interesting to see if the RMT union continuesto back TUSC in the coming years after its dear leader Bob Crow sadly passed way he was a big part of TUSC and his failed no to EU left nationalist project both seem to be struggling badly will a union which has fingers in other pies continue to prop up a tired, worn out political project based on a labour mark 2 model? While Tusc was the left’s main standard-bearer in the local elections that ‘honour’ fell to the campaign known as ‘No to the EU, Yes to Workers’ Rights’ in the European Union parliamentary poll. Thankfully, however, 2014 will undoubtedly be the last we hear of No2EU and its abhorrent anti-European Union left nationalism. First let us state the bare results. No2EU picked up 31,757 votes, which represents 0.2% overall - 0.3% when you take into account the fact that it only contested seven of the 11 EU British regions. Compare that to 2009, when it recorded 153,236 votes - just about 1%. But, worse, this time around there was virtually no campaign. Take a look at the No2EU website. It has hardly been touched for months. If you click on ‘About us’, you will find a page entitled ‘No2EU meetings’ and learn about two gatherings that took place over a week ago. Following on directly from these two adverts is the statement: “No2EU will be standing 46 candidates in seven regions in the May 22 Euro election, including London, North West, Eastern, Wales, Scotland, York’s and Humber and West Midlands.” All the candidates are then listed. And that is it. Apart from this minimal information buried away as part of an advert for a couple of meetings, No2EU has been unable to give any biographical details about the individual candidates, keep us up to date with the ‘campaign’ or inform us of the results. No wonder SPEW gave up on No2EU, even though two of its comrades - Dave Nellist in the West Midlands and Roger Bannister in the North West - headed its regional lists. As in most of the recent copies of The Socialist, there was not a mention of No2EU in the pre-election issue, let alone a call to vote for it (apart from in the weekly cut-and-paste column from SPEW treasurer Ken Douglas, which states: “The Socialist Party is appealing for £15,000 to help finance our election campaigns for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition … and No2EU in the European elections”). This despite an editorial on the UK Independence Party predicting that Ukip would see “a new swathe of councillors elected on May 22, and do well in the European elections”. Even though the editorial told us, “It is vital to counter Ukip”, it did not even advise its readers to vote for its own comrades standing for No2EU. It concluded by stating: “… central to undermining Ukip will be revealing them to be just one more party for the 1% and, more importantly, beginning to build an electoral voice that really does stand for the millions, not the millionaires.” Obviously No2EU is not that “electoral voice” then. The over talk of we’re going to do this we’re going to do that wound me up no end it was lovely it spoke to a lot of people but rarely translated into much beyond the rhetoric sadly. One can only conclude yet again that the left, divided as it is into competing sect lets, is in an abysmal state. And SPEW’s ‘strategy’ for the building of a “new mass workers’ party” has once again shown itself to be a sorry joke unfortunately. We need to start being realistic on the left we are not going to get anywhere otherwise we cant pretend we are where we want to be we are in a hole and we need to accept that to move on. With thanks to the CPGB and the weekly worker for extracts at http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1012/may-22-results-once-again-a-sorry-joke/

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