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The “Radical Left” in the British General Elections (2010)

The British elections ended with the predictable result: Labour had significant losses, the Tories significant gains although not as many as they had expected. The LibDems on the other hand – who had thought they could cash in on a media-generated “Cleggstasy” failed to turn this phantom into reality. In the end they however managed to make a deal with the Tories and are now in a coalition government with them.

After three terms of Labour rule, and amidst a fierce economic crisis, the electorate was expected to turn against New Labour, but if they would want to turn to the Conservatives or the LibDems was a given only in terms of the existing three party system in the UK.
It would have seemed to be a perfect opportunity for those on the “radical” left who are still fetishising electoralism to present a “left of Labour” alternative. Unfortunately this seems to be the rule with the exception of anarchists and left communists who reject the participation in elections on principle.

An electoral “left of Labour” project has been on the agenda of many of the “radical” parties and groups for many years. The most “promising” outcome so far has been the Socialist Alliance which stood candidates in the 2001 general election. This coalition of AWL, CPGB, SWP, SPEW, Workers Power and several other groups was de facto wound down by its strongest member, the SWP, when they – thinking they could generate political capital out of the anti-Iraq-war movement – entered into a new alliance with the Muslim Association of Britain (the British section of the Muslim Brotherhood) and the notorious George Galloway under the name Respect the Unity Coalition. In the following general election Galloway won a seat for Respect.

When the SWP and the Galloway wing of Respect finally split apart the situation of the far left electoral fronts didn’t improve. The credibility of any such project had suffered considerably by the reactionary opportunism of the Respect project. The SWP tried to salvage the situation by an apparent move to the left (or back to basics), and internally this was instituted by the ousting of John Rees from the Central Committee. While Rees was no doubt a leading figure in the Respect debacle, the other members of the CC were just as guilty and it appears that he was supposed to serve as the sacrifice that was going to re-identify the SWP with itself.

In the meantime a “Left of Labour” front was created by SPEW, Bob Crow (RMT), the CPB and others on a left nationalist (“eurosceptic”) ticket for the 2009 election to the European Parliament as “No2EU – Yes to Democracy”. Of course nationalist bigots don’t need such a party, they might as well vote BNP (who had two MEP’s elected, No2EU had none).
In the run up to the 2010 general election there was much talk in the papers and discussions of the various small parties and sects about forming another type of Socialist Alliance, with the fear being widely expressed that it could just turn out to be a “Son of No2EU”.

This became partly true with TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which was dominated by SPEW and included the SWP, support from the RMT, but did not include the CPB. It also did not include the various smaller far left groups such as the AWL, CPGB (Weekly Worker), Workers Power, Permanent Revolution etc.

Prominent members Dave Nellist and Tommy Sheridan came out of the election with modest results of 3.7% and 2.9% respectively. But with very few exceptions most candidates were hovering around the 0.5% mark. This is a lot less than what the Socialist Alliance had achieved in 2001. TUSC was a failure.

Respect was also standing some candidates and did better in some districts, although they failed to win any seats (Galloway was standing in a different district than the one he was MP for and came third). The Socialist Worker (SWP paper) website interestingly featured the Respect results under the results for “socialist” candidates, but not the results of other far left groups. What is supposed to be socialist about Respect is unclear, except that possibly the SWP wants to keep a back door open for future alliances.

There were some other parties with questionable reputation such as the Socialist Labour Party, which was standing 24 candidates, and the Workers Revolutionary Party, which was standing 7 candidates.

Three of the smallest, more radical groups were also standing a candidate each:

Workers Power candidate Jeremy Drinkall (standing under “Anticapitalists – Workers Power”) came second to last (out of 9) in Vauxhall with 109 votes, only beating the candidate of the Animal Protection Party (96 votes).

Alliance For Workers Liberty candidate Jill Mountford came last in Camberwell and Peckham with just 75 votes (Turnout: 46,659), clearly beaten by two other “far left” candidates from the WRP and the SLP (211 and 184 votes respectively).

In Manchester Central, the Socialist Equality Party were standing their candidate who received an appalling 54 votes and came last behind the WRP candidate who received 59 votes (Turnout here was 39,927).

To call these results “poor” would be flattering.
It simply documents the tragic-comical situation that these groups fetishize the system of bourgeois democracy enough to use it to display their impotence, when the reasonable alternative would be to build a communist movement not participating but denouncing and fighting politics.
But living in their Leninist cloud cuckoo land these organizations are unwilling, incapable and generally unable to make the necessary steps to become revolutionaries. Their lip service to communism only does damage to the project of universal emancipation as they time and again prove that all they are capable of is to act as the “left wing of capital”.
Those sincere revolutionaries tied up in these sects should leave them as soon as possible and contribute to a regroupment that leaves the mystifications of Leninist bourgeois politics behind.

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